US Silencing Palestinian Journalist Mohammed Omer

March 25, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Haymarket Books

Effectively canceling a planned speaking tour, the US consulate in the Netherlands has put an extended hold on the visa application of award-winning Palestinian journalist and photographer Mohammed Omer, scheduled to speak on conditions in Palestine, on 5 April in Chicago.

In 2008, Omer became the youngest recipient of the prestigious Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, for his firsthand reportage of life in the besieged Gaza Strip. As his prize citation explained, “Every day, he reports from a war zone, where he is also a prisoner. He is a profoundly humane witness to one of the great injustices of our time. He is the voice of the voiceless … Working alone in extremely difficult and often dangerous circumstances, [Omer has] reported unpalatable truths validated by powerful facts.”

Upon attempting to return to Gaza following his acceptance of the Gellhorn award in London, Omer was detained, interrogated and beaten by the Shin Bet Israeli security force for over 12 hours, and eventually hospitalized with cracked ribs and respiratory problems. He has since resided in the Netherlands and continues to undergo medical treatment there for his subsequent health problems.

The US consulate has now held his visa application for an extended period of time, effectively canceling a planned US speaking tour without the explanation that a denial would require. In recent years, numerous foreign scholars and experts have been subject to visa delays and denials that have prohibited them from speaking and teaching in the US — a process the American Civil Liberties Union describes as “Ideological Exclusion,” which they say violates Americans’ first amendment right to hear constitutionally protected speech by denying foreign scholars, artists, politicians and others entry to the United States. Foreign nationals who have recently been denied visas include Fulbright scholar Marixa Lasso; respected South African scholar and vocal Iraq War critic Dr. Adam Habib; Iraqi doctor Riyadh Lafta, who disputed the official Iraqi civilian death numbers in the respected British medical journal The Lancet; and Oxford’s Tariq Ramadan, who has just received a visa to speak in the United States after more than five years of delays and denials.

Fellow Gellhorn recipient Dahr Jamail, expressed his disbelief at Omer’s visa hold. “Why would the US government, when we consider the premise that we have `free speech’ in this country, place on hold a visa for Mohammed Omer, or any other journalist planning to come to the United States to give talks about what they report on? This is a travesty, and the only redemption available for the US government in this situation is to issue Omer’s visa immediately, and with a deep apology.”

Omer was to visit Houston, Santa Fe and Chicago, where local publisher Haymarket Books was to host his Newberry Library event, “Reflections on Life and War in Gaza,” alongside a broad set of interfaith religious, community and political organizations.

Rather than cancel the meeting, organizers are calling on supporters to write letters and emails calling for the US consulate’s approval of Omer’s visa. They are also proceeding with the event as planned, via live satellite or skype, if necessary.

U.S. consulate information:

Ambassador Fay Hartog Levin
U.S. Embassy in The Hague
Lange Voorhout 102
2514 EJ
The Netherlands
T: +31 70 310-2209
F: +31 70 361-4688

ConsularAmster@state.gov

Background on Mohammed Omer:

Mohammed Omer was born and raised in the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. He maintains the website Rafah Today and is a correspondent for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. His home in Rafah was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer while the family was inside, seriously injuring his mother. Yet, as Omer explained in an article he wrote upon winning the award, “My ambition was to get the truth out, not as pro-Palestinian or anti-Israeli, but as an independent voice and witness.” His reportage features interviews with regular Palestinians in Gazan attempting to survive amidst bombing, home demolitions and the crippling economic blockade, which has created devastating shortages of electricity, water, fuel and other necessities for survival.

Omer was to visit Chicago to discuss, with Ali Abunimah, Chicago-based author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, his reportage, personal experience, and the struggle for Palestinian rights. If the delay on his visa continues, he will take part in the event via live satellite connection or Skype.

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Community News (V11-I48)

November 19, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Zeba Khan, finalist in contest

TOLEDO, OH– Zeba Khan, a Toledo native and social media consultant for nonprofits, has reached the final round of America’s Next Great Pundit contest, sponsored by the Washington Post. She is one of the ten finalists selected from a pool of 4800 entrants.

According to an online biography, last year she founded Muslim-Americans for Obama, a social network dedicated to mobilizing the Muslim-American community in the presidential campaign.

Her work and writings have been featured in numerous media outlets, including Newsweek, National Public Radio, Reuters, Voice of America, Washington Post, the Guardian, and the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Her work was highlighted at the 2009 Personal Democracy Forum Conference in New York.

A Fulbright Scholar, Ms. Khan received a master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy and degrees from the University of Chicago.

The contest winner, to be announced about Nov. 24, will get the chance to write a weekly column that may appear in the print and/or online editions of the Washington Post, paid at a rate of $200 per column, for a total of 13 weeks and $2,600.

Parliament of the World’s Religions elects Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid

CHICAGO, IL– – At its biannual meeting Oct. 18-19, the Board of Trustees of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions elected as its chair Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid. The board met in Williams Bay, Wis.

Imam Mujahid’s term begins Jan. 1, 2010. He succeeds the Rev. Dr. William E. Lesher, who has served as chair since 2003. Imam Mujahid is an imam in the Chicago Muslim community and president of Sound Vision Foundation, which produces Radio Islam, America’s only daily Muslim call-in talk show.

The Rev. Dr. Lesher said he considers Imam Mujahid “marvelously equipped” to serve as the board’s highest elected officer.

“He brings to the chair a deep commitment to his own faith tradition,” the Rev. Dr. Lesher said. “He is a recognized leader in that tradition. He has an understanding of how religion is a force in American society and also in societies throughout the world.”

The organization traces its roots to the 1893 Parliament of the World’s Religions, which took place in conjunction with the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. In 1993 the council organized and hosted the first modern Parliament of the World’s Religions, also in Chicago. Subsequent Parliaments have been held in 1999 in Cape Town, South Africa; and in 2004 in Barcelona, Spain.

“Most older things are known to fade away, but the Parliament is a phenomenon that constantly reinvents itself,” Imam Mujahid said. “We were ahead of our ourselves in Cape Town when we started engaging guiding institutions around the world on sustainability,” Imam Mujahid said. “Now it’s the talk of the town.”

Imam Mujahid is former chair of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, and has written extensively on religion, public policy and applied aspects of Islamic living. Imam Mujahid has initiated a joint campaign between American Muslims and the National Organization of Women to declare rape a war crime.

Muslim students fast to help others

BLACKSBURG, VA–Muslim students at the Virginia Tech are going on fast so that others don’t go hungry. The Muslim Students Association’s launched its annual fundraiser and day of fasting this week.

The Hungry Hokies Fast-a-Thon collects $7 to benefit the Blacksburg Interfaith Food Pantry from participants who refrain from consuming food for a day.

Those participating in the fast are pledged to not eat anything or drink water from dawn to dusk, which is consistent with the customs of Muslim culture.

“It incorporates the traditional Muslim traditions of fasting,” said Asif Akhtar, president of the Muslim Student Association.

All the proceeds raised through the event will be directly donated to Blacksburg Interfaith Food Pantry, located on Main Street. The pantry deals only with families affected by hunger in Blacksburg. More than 1300 local residents are served, and the number is continually increasing.

Vote on Lilburn mosque this week

LILBURN,GA– The Lilburn City Council will vote this week on Dar-e-Abbas mosque’s request for zoning changes. It wants to  keep the existing residential zoning on the part of the property that is closest to the adjacent residential neighborhoods.

The mosque wants the rest of the eight acres closest to Lawrenceville Highway zoned or rezoned to allow for the expansion.

One of the leaders of Lilburn’s Dar-E-Abbas Mosque said Monday night that existing trees would be preserved as a buffer of 200 feet between the mosque’s proposed expansion and adjacent homes.

More than three acres of land “will be undisturbed, there’ll be a big buffer, all natural, it will stay as it is,” said Wasi Zaidi.

Obituary: Mustafa M. Khan, 84, Cardiologist

Dr. Mustafa Khan, 84, of Cherry Hill, a cardiologist and family physician in Camden for more than half a century died last Tuesday. He had opened a family practice in Camden in 1958.  The Trinidad born Dr. Khan was loved by his patients and was know for his social work.

He served as the physician for or Camden High School, the Camden County Sheriff’s Department, and, for 18 years, the Camden City Jail.

He was active with Youth 2000, a YMCA mentoring program in Camden, and with the outreach ministries to the homeless at Solid Rock Worship Center in Clementon.

Dr. Khan grew up in Trinidad with 10 siblings. His parents were descendants of indentured laborers from eastern India who went to the Caribbean to work the sugarcane fields in the late 19th century.

As a young boy, he accompanied the local doctor on his rounds from village to village and “determined to one day also be of service to those in need,” his son said.

Dr. Khan earned bachelor’s, master’s, and medical degrees from Howard University in Washington.

He is survived by his wife of 59 years, three sons, a daughter, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

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