Fear, Inc.

September 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America

Editor’s Note:  This is the introduction of the new groundbreaking study by the American Center for Progress, documenting the stoking of the national climate of anti-Muslim sentiment by a small but vocal group of provocateurs.

By Wajahat Ali, Eli Clifton, Matthew Duss, Lee Fang , Scott Keyes, Faiz Shakir

On July 22, a man planted a bomb in an Oslo government building that killed eight people. A few hours after the explosion, he shot and killed 68 people, mostly teenagers, at a Labor Party youth camp on Norway’s Utoya Island.

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Anti-Muslim graffiti defaces a Shi’ite mosque at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan.

Getty/Bill Pugliano

 

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Pamela Gellar, under fire for her involvement in and apologetics for the mass killings in Norway by Anders Breivik.

By midday, pundits were speculating as to who had perpetrated the greatest massacre in Norwegian history since World War II. Numerous mainstream media outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic, speculated about an Al Qaeda connection and a “jihadist” motivation behind the attacks. But by the next morning it was clear that the attacker was a 32-year-old, white, blond-haired and blue-eyed Norwegian named Anders Breivik. He was not a Muslim, but rather a self-described Christian conservative.

According to his attorney, Breivik claimed responsibility for his self-described “gruesome but necessary” actions. On July 26, Breivik told the court that violence was “necessary” to save Europe from Marxism and “Muslimization.” In his 1,500-page manifesto, which meticulously details his attack methods and aims to inspire others to extremist violence, Breivik vows “brutal and breathtaking operations which will result in casualties” to fight the alleged “ongoing Islamic Colonization of Europe.”

Breivik’s manifesto contains numerous footnotes and in-text citations to American bloggers and pundits, quoting them as experts on Islam’s “war against the West.” This small group of anti-Muslim organizations and individuals in our nation is obscure to most Americans but wields great influence in shaping the national and international political debate. Their names are heralded within communities that are actively organizing against Islam and targeting Muslims in the United States.

Breivik, for example, cited Robert Spencer, one of the anti-Muslim misinformation scholars we profile in this report, and his blog, Jihad Watch, 162 times in his manifesto. Spencer’s website, which “tracks the attempts of radical Islam to subvert Western culture,” boasts another member of this Islamophobia network in America, David Horowitz, on his Freedom Center website. Pamela Geller, Spencer’s frequent collaborator, and her blog, Atlas Shrugs, was mentioned 12 times.

Geller and Spencer co-founded the organization Stop Islamization of America, a group whose actions and rhetoric the Anti-Defamation League concluded “promotes a conspiratorial anti-Muslim agenda under the guise of fighting radical Islam. The group seeks to rouse public fears by consistently vilifying the Islamic faith and asserting the existence of an Islamic conspiracy to destroy “American values.” Based on Breivik’s sheer number of citations and references to the writings of these individuals, it is clear that he read and relied on the hateful, anti-Muslim ideology of a number of men and women detailed in this report&a select handful of scholars and activists who work together to create and promote misinformation about Muslims.

While these bloggers and pundits were not responsible for Breivik’s deadly attacks, their writings on Islam and multiculturalism appear to have helped create a world view, held by this lone Norwegian gunman, that sees Islam as at war with the West and the West needing to be defended. According to former CIA officer and terrorism consultant Marc Sageman, just as religious extremism “is the infrastructure from which Al Qaeda emerged,” the writings of these anti-Muslim misinformation experts are “the infrastructure from which Breivik emerged.” Sageman adds that their rhetoric “is not cost-free.”

These pundits and bloggers, however, are not the only members of the Islamophobia infrastructure. Breivik’s manifesto also cites think tanks, such as the Center for Security Policy, the Middle East Forum and the Investigative Project on Terrorism—three other organizations we profile in this report. Together, this core group of deeply intertwined individuals and organizations manufacture and exaggerate threats of “creeping Sharia,” Islamic domination of the West, and purported obligatory calls to violence against all non-Muslims by the Quran.

This network of hate is not a new presence in the United States.

Indeed, its ability to organize, coordinate, and disseminate its ideology through grassroots organizations increased dramatically over the past 10 years. Furthermore, its ability to influence politicians’ talking points and wedge issues for the upcoming 2012 elections has mainstreamed what was once considered fringe, extremist rhetoric.

And it all starts with the money flowing from a select group of foundations. A small group of foundations and wealthy donors are the lifeblood of the Islamophobia network in America, providing critical funding to a clutch of right-wing think tanks that peddle hate and fear of Muslims and Islam—in the form of books, reports, websites, blogs, and carefully crafted talking points that anti-Islam grassroots organizations and some right-wing religious groups use as propaganda for their constituency.

Some of these foundations and wealthy donors also provide direct funding to anti-Islam grassroots groups. According to our extensive analysis, here are the top seven contributors to promoting Islamophobia in our country:

Donors Capital Fund
Richard Mellon Scaife foundations
Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
Newton D. & Rochelle F. Becker foundations and charitable trust
Russell Berrie Foundation Anchorage Charitable Fund and
William Rosenwald Family Fund
Fairbrook Foundation

Altogether, these seven charitable groups provided $42.6 million to Islamophobia think tanks between 2001 and 2009—funding that supports the scholars and experts that are the subject of our next chapter as well as some of the grassroots groups that are the subject of Chapter 3 of our report.

And what does this money fund? Well, here’s one of many cases in point:

Last July, former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich warned a conservative audience at the American Enterprise Institute that the Islamic practice of Sharia was “a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and in the world as we know it.” Gingrich went on to claim that “Sharia in its natural form has principles and punishments totally abhorrent to the Western world.”

Sharia, or Muslim religious code, includes practices such as charitable giving, prayer, and honoring one’s parents—precepts virtually identical to those of Christianity and Judaism. But Gingrich and other conservatives promote alarmist notions about a nearly 1,500-year-old religion for a variety of sinister political, financial, and ideological motives. In his remarks that day, Gingrich mimicked the language of conservative analyst Andrew McCarthy, who co-wrote a report calling Sharia “the preeminent totalitarian threat of our time.” Such similarities in language are no accident. Look no further than the organization that released McCarthy’s anti-Sharia report: the aforementioned Center for Security Policy, which is a central hub of the anti-Muslim network and an active promoter of anti- Sharia messaging and anti-Muslim rhetoric.

In fact, CSP is a key source for right-wing politicians, pundits, and grassroots organizations, providing them with a steady stream of reports mischaracterizing Islam and warnings about the dangers of Islam and American Muslims. Operating under the leadership of Frank Gaffney, the organization is funded by a small number of foundations and donors with a deep understanding of how to influence U.S. politics by promoting highly alarming threats to our national security. CSP is joined by other anti-Muslim organizations in this lucrative business, such as Stop Islamization of America and the Society of Americans for National Existence. Many of the leaders of these organizations are well-schooled in the art of getting attention in the press, particularly Fox News, The Wall Street Journal editorial pages, The Washington Times, and a variety of right-wing websites and radio outlets.

Misinformation experts such as Gaffney consult and work with such right-wing grassroots organizations as ACT! for America and the Eagle Forum, as well as religious right groups such as the Faith and Freedom Coalition and American Family Association, to spread their message.

Speaking at their conferences, writing on their websites, and appearing on their radio shows, these experts rail against Islam and cast suspicion on American Muslims. Much of their propaganda gets churned into fundraising appeals by grassroots and religious right groups. The money they raise then enters the political process and helps fund ads supporting politicians who echo alarmist warnings and sponsor anti-Muslim attacks.

These efforts recall some of the darkest episodes in American history, in which religious, ethnic, and racial minorities were discriminated against and persecuted. From Catholics, Mormons, Japanese Americans, European immigrants, Jews, and African Americans, the story of America is one of struggle to achieve in practice our founding ideals.

Unfortunately, American Muslims and Islam are the latest chapter in a long American struggle against scapegoating based on religion, race, or creed.

Due in part to the relentless efforts of this small group of individuals and organizations, Islam is now the most negatively viewed religion in America. Only 37 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of Islam: the lowest favorability rating since 2001, according to a 2010 ABC News/Washington Post poll. According to a 2010 Time magazine poll, 28 percent of voters do not believe Muslims should be eligible to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, and nearly one-third of the country thinks followers of Islam should be barred from running for president.

The terrorist attacks on 9/11 alone did not drive Americans’ perceptions of Muslims and Islam. President George W. Bush reflected the general opinion of the American public at the time when he went to great lengths to make clear that Islam and Muslims are not the enemy.

Speaking to a roundtable of Arab and Muslim American leaders at the Afghanistan embassy in 2002, for example, President Bush said, “All Americans must recognize that the face of terror is not the true faith—face of Islam. Islam is a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world. It’s a faith that has made brothers and sisters of every race. It’s a faith based upon love, not hate.”

Unfortunately, President Bush’s words were soon eclipsed by an organized escalation of hateful statements about Muslims and Islam from the members of the Islamophobia network profiled in this report. This is as sad as it is dangerous. It is enormously important to understand that alienating the Muslim American community not only threatens our fundamental promise of religious freedom, it also hurts our efforts to combat terrorism. Since 9/11, the Muslim American community has helped security and law enforcement officials prevent more than 40 percent of Al Qaeda terrorist plots threatening America. The largest single source of initial information to authorities about the few Muslim American plots has come from the Muslim American community.

Around the world, there are people killing people in the name of Islam, with which most Muslims disagree. Indeed, in most cases of radicalized neighbors, family members, or friends, the Muslim American community is as baffled, disturbed, and surprised by their appearance as the general public. Treating Muslim American citizens and neighbors as part of the problem, rather than part of the solution, is not only offensive to America’s core values, it is utterly ineffective in combating terrorism and violent extremism.

The White House recently released the national strategy for combating violent extremism, “Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States.” One of the top focal points of the effort is to “counter al-Qa’ida’s propaganda that the United States is somehow at war with Islam.” Yet orchestrated efforts by the individuals and organizations detailed in this report make it easy for al-Qa’ida to assert that America hates Muslims and that Muslims around the world are persecuted for the simple crime of being Muslims and practicing their religion.

Sadly, the current isolation of American Muslims echoes past witch hunts in our history—from the divisive McCarthyite purges of the 1950s to the sometimes violent anti-immigrant campaigns in the 19th and 20th centuries. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has compared the fear-mongering of Muslims with anti-Catholic sentiment of the past. In response to the fabricated “Ground Zero mosque” controversy in New York last summer, Mayor Bloomberg said:

In the 1700s, even as religious freedom took hold in America, Catholics in New York were effectively prohibited from practicing their religion, and priests could be arrested. Largely as a result, the first Catholic parish in New York City was not established until the 1780s, St. Peter’s on Barclay Street, which still stands just one block north of the World Trade Center site, and one block south of the proposed mosque and community center. … We would betray our values and play into our enemies’ hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else.

This report shines a light on the Islamophobia network of so-called experts, academics, institutions, grassroots organizations, media outlets, and donors who manufacture, produce, distribute, and mainstream an irrational fear of Islam and Muslims.

Let us learn the proper lesson from the past, and rise above fear-mongering to public awareness, acceptance, and respect for our fellow Americans. In doing so, let us prevent hatred from infecting and endangering our country again.

In the pages that follow, we profile the small number of funders, organizations, and individuals who have contributed to the discourse on Islamophobia in this country. We begin with the money trail in Chapter 1—our analysis of the funding streams that support anti-Muslim activities. Chapter 2 identifies the intellectual nexus of the Islamophobia network. Chapter 3 highlights the key grassroots players and organizations that help spread the messages of hate. Chapter 4 aggregates the key media amplifiers of Islamophobia. And Chapter 5 brings attention to the elected officials who frequently support the causes of anti- Muslim organizing.

Before we begin, a word about the term “Islamophobia.” We don’t use this term lightly. We define it as an exaggerated fear, hatred, and hostility toward Islam and Muslims that is perpetuated by negative stereotypes resulting in bias, discrimination, and the marginalization and exclusion of Muslims from America’s social, political, and civic life.

It is our view that in order to safeguard our national security and uphold America’s core values, we must return to a fact-based civil discourse regarding the challenges we face as a nation and world. This discourse must be frank and honest, but also consistent with American values of religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and respect for pluralism. A first step toward the goal of honest, civil discourse is to expose—and marginalize—the influence of the individuals and groups who make up the Islamophobia network in America by actively working to divide Americans against one another through misinformation.

Wajahat Ali is a researcher at the Center for American Progress and a researcher for the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Eli Clifton is a researcher at the Center for American Progress and a national security reporter for the Center for American Progress Action Fund and ThinkProgress.org. Matthew Duss is a Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress and Director of the Center’s Middle East Progress. Lee Fang is a researcher at the Center for American Progress and an investigative researcher/blogger for the Center for American Progress Action Fund and ThinkProgress.org. Scott Keyes is a researcher at the Center for American Progress and an investigative researcher for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Faiz Shakir is a Vice President at the Center for American Progress and serves as Editor-in-Chief of ThinkProgress.org.

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The Face of Hate: Visible Now

September 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dr. Aslam Abdullah, TMO Editor-in-Chief

We are not born to hate or kill others. We are taught to hate and kill others. Sometimes this hatred is in the name of religion, sometimes in the name of country, sometimes it is for money and sometimes it is a combination of all these four. What is now emerging clearly is that there is a small group of Jewish intellectuals and activists who under the secret advise of hawkish Israelis have been engaged in a high level Islam bashing and Muslim demonizing for almost a decade in the United States. They have promoted hatred against Muslims and they can create conditions to justify the killings of Muslims in America and elsewhere. There purpose is to marginalize the Muslim community so that it may not play any effective role in any aspect of American life. Their goal is to create conditions leading to the almost lynching of Muslims. Their grudge against Muslim American comes from their love to the state of Israel. The irony is that they are using the American resources to promote their agenda. They have found an ally in the form of white conservative Christian evangelical supremacists who consider Muslims infidels and pagans.
The information here is from a highly credible research project. The report raises several questions about the credibility of Jewish organizations and leadership. It is an irony that despite overwhelming evidence of the involvement of some Jewish activists in trying to demonize Muslims intentionally and make their religion a target of hatred, the mainstream Jewish organizations and Christians groups have refused to condemn the hate mongers.

Here are the synopsis of the report that clearly demonstrates that the anti-Sharia bill in Michigan and other states is the result of a conspiracy against Islam hatched by some Jewish activists with the help of Christian evangelical resources.

The conspiracy is open. We must expose the hate mongers and question Christian and Jewish organizations to take a stand on these issues. In the interfaith forums these issues deserve to be discussed and brought out. We must be able to demonstrate clearly that the spreading of hate and misinformation against Islam and Muslims primarily started with five key people and their organizations, and it is sustained and funded by a few key foundations with Christian conservative roots, says an in-depth investigation conducted by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. The tightly networked group of misinformation experts were able to guide efforts that now have reached millions of Americans through advocates, media panelists and grassroots organizations.

The five misinformation experts are:

• Frank Gaffney at the Center for Security Policy
• David Yerushalmi at the Society of Americans for National Existence
• Daniel Pipes at the Middle East Forum
• Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch and Stop Islamization of America
• Steven Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism

These individuals have generated the materials used by political leaders, grassroots groups, and the media on a regular basis.

The funding organizations have given over 40 million dollars during the last 10 years. They are:

Donors Capital Fund; Richard Mellon Scaife Foundation;
Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation; Newton and Rochelle Becker
Foundation and Newton and Rochelle Becker Charitable Trust;
Russell Berrie Foundation, Anchorage Charitable Fund

The misinformation experts have traveled the country and worked with or testified before state legislatures calling for a ban on the nonexisting threat of Sharia law in America and have proclaimed that the vast majority of mosques in America harbor Islamist terrorists or sympathizers.

David Yerushalmi’s “model legislation” banning Sharia law has been cut and pasted into bills in South Carolina, Texas, and Alaska. His video on how to draft an anti-Sharia bill and his online tools have been picked up nationwide. The misinformation movement is active in more than 23 states.

Brigitte Gabriel’s ACT! For America, Pam Geller’s Stop Islamization of America, David Horowitz’s Freedom Center, and existing groups such as the American Family Association and the Eagle Forum are usually the groups that promote the ideas of misinformation experts whose work has often been cited many times by (among others) confessed Norway terrorist Anders Breivik.

Those whose rhetoric against Islam and Muslims has become known include among the the religious right:

Pat Robertson, John Hagee, Ralph Reed, and Franklin Graham; among the grassroots organizations

Brigitte Gabriel’s ACT! For America, Pamela Geller’s, Stop Islamization of America Eagle Forum, Tennessee Freedom Coalition, State Tea Party movements, American Family Association; among the media, Fox News Channel, David Horowitz, Freedom Center Pamela Geller and Atlas Shrugs, Washington Times, The National Review, Christian Broadcast Network, Clarion Fund, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mike Savage, Glenn Beck, Mark Levin and Bryan Fischer and among politicians, Rep. Peter King, Rep. Sue Myrick, Rep. Allen West, Rep. Renee Elmers, Rep. Paul Broun and Rep. Michele Bachmann.

Those who validate their arguments include: Nonie Darwish, Former Muslims United and Arabs for Israel, Zuhdi Jasser, American Islamic Forum for Democracy, Walid Phares, Future Terrorism Project
Walid Shoebat, Former purported terrorist turned apocalyptic Christian.

Now we know who the hate mongers are and who the misinformants are, we should not keep quiet. We must raise the issue in every forum that we have to ensure that conspirators are further exposed for ever.

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Ambassadors of Islam

September 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Milad Alucozai

IMG_4526Lafayette, IN – Local Muslims gathered on Tuesday morning to join more than a billion around the world in marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, which calls for fasting during daylight hours.
Located in central Indiana, Lafayette is mid-size Midwestern city with a community of about 1,000 Muslims. They gathered in the Old Burtsfield Gymnasium (a local school no longer in use) from every race, nationality, and economic status, to offer their prayers.

The event was organized by the Islamic Society of Greater Lafayette and drew a crowd young and old, with local families and their children joining with students from nearby Purdue University, as well as non-Muslim visitors taking advantage of the congregation’s open invitation to the community.

The special prayer began promptly at 8:00 am and was followed by a khutbah emphasizing the importance of building bridges with the broader community.

The khatib told attendees that they must be ambassadors of Islam not only in the Mosque but also at school, in the workplace, and elsewhere, by carrying themselves with the highest character and doing good deeds.

“Do not be just a doctor, a teacher, or a student. Be a Muslim doctor, a Muslim teacher, a Muslim student,” he said, “Be mindful of how your conduct is perceived and represent Islamic in the best light.”

Every Ramadan, Muslims young and old need to go back to the Quran and the teachings of the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (s) to become better Muslims.

This is even more important in these tough times when heated rhetoric and acts of violence against Muslim Americans (and non-Muslim Arab Americans) have increased.
As Muslim, we must do our part to break down prejudices and barriers through our daily actions.

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Islam and America: Toward Common Ground

September 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Milad Alucozai, Purdue University

TMO Editor’s Note:  This is the second essay that tied for third place in the TMO Foundation’s Second Annual Essay Competition, 2011.

bildeIn his 1941 State of the Union address, President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke of a world founded upon four essential human freedoms, among them “the freedom of every person to worship God in his own way.” Freedom of religion, deeply rooted in the American tradition, has long been protected by the laws of our nation. Despite legal protections, ethnic and religious minorities in America have been the subjects of discrimination, harassment, and even physical violence throughout our history. Following the events of September 11, 2001, heated rhetoric and acts of violence against Muslim Americans (and non-Muslim Arab Americans) have increased. Public attention to these acts reached a peak in the summer of 2010.

In Florida, a bomb exploded on May 10th at the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida with 60 people praying inside, and Pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville threatened to destroy 200 copies of the Quran during his “Burn a Koran Day.” In New York City, opposition united against the construction of an Islamic Community Center.  In August, a New York City taxi driver was stabbed by his passenger after revealing he was a Muslim, and during the same week five teenagers were arrested in update New York for firing shots at a local mosque. These events prompted many in the American and international media to question whether the United States is a nation dedicated to the freedom of all Americans.  An August 30, 2010 TIME Magazine cover asked the question, “Is America Islamophobic?” and a September New York Times headline read “American Muslims Ask: Will We Ever Belong?” According to the Justice Department, there have been more than 800 cases of violence and discrimination against Muslim Americans in the ten years since September 11th.

Yet millions of Americans remain committed to peaceful understanding and cooperation and respect the value of our neighbors of all faiths and creeds. What are the roots of this supposed fear and animosity towards Muslims, and what can we do to counter this while promoting our vision for society?

American followers of Islam, now numbering more than 7 million, have been an integral part of our national fabric since the founding of our country. George Washington is known to have welcomed Muslims to his residence at Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson was adamant that the 1786 Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom include “within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan [Muslim].” 

The second president of the United States, John Adams, asserted in the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli that “The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims.”  These early examples show the respect our founding fathers had for the Islamic faith.

Although Muslims were surely a part of our nation since its founding, their population was made up of a limited number of immigrants living in disparate places who were not able to form communities. A large segment of this population was made up of slaves who were taken by force from the west coast of Africa, where Islam was prevalent. These slaves were not allowed to practice their faith openly and this, combined with the lack of family structure and general difficulties of bondage, resulted in the loss of Islamic practices in subsequent generations of most slave populations that had originally been Muslim.

Evidence from surviving slave manuscripts written by those who were educated describe the practice of Islam within slave communities. One of the most well known manuscripts was written by the Muslim slave Bilali Mahomet. The accounts document how the Islamic faith in the African American community tragically fell victim to the realities of slavery and was slowly extinguished. 

The first significant wave of Muslims who freely immigrated to America occurred in the mid-1800’s from modern day Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. Though not slaves, these immigrants possessed little education and came in the pursuit of employment and opportunity. Disenfranchised by their lack of higher education and the large language barrier, many of the immigrants were forced to assume jobs involving menial labor.  Most regarded their stay in America as a temporary opportunity to earn some money which they could take back to their homelands. 

The number of Muslim families immigrating to America steadily increased over the latter half of the 19th century and into the early 20th century when the Ottoman Empire crumbled in World War I. This period was characterized by a rising tide of immigration to American from all over the world, especially Asian countries. Public backlash against the open door immigration policy resulted in the passage of a series of immigration laws in 1921 and 1924 that severely restricted immigration and closed to the door to new Muslims immigrants.

These restrictions combined with the continued effects of slavery, limited the growth of Islam in America. However, a significant number of Muslim families had already settled in America. These families began to organize into close communities that flourished. One of the first documented Muslim communities was established in Ross, North Dakota and it was also here that one of the first American mosques was constructed in 1929.

As the major urban centers of New York and Chicago became the gathering places for tens of thousands of immigrants, large Muslims communities also developed around these metropolises and networks were developed between communities across the country that relied on each other for mutual support and assistance.

While many of African American communities in the United States had lost most of their Muslim faith, they represented a population which would be the face of Islamic growth in the middle decades of the 20th century.  The growth of Islam in the African American community arguably can be traced to a clothing salesman in Detroit by the name of Wallace D. Fard.  Fard preached a message of African American empowerment and called his message the Nation of Islam (NOI).  One of the Fard’s prominent disciples was Elijah Poole, later to become Elijah Muhammad.  Through their meetings, Elijah Muhammad began to associate Fard with a status of divinity and even went as far as to proclaim that Fard was the Messiah, an image that Fard did little to downplay. Most mainstream Muslims claim that the teachings of the Nation of Islam are not rooted in either the Holy Quran or the Prophet’s recorded teachings (Sunnah) and thus are not truly within the fold of Islam. Although analysis of the major teachings of the NOI vindicates this position, the NOI was nevertheless the vehicle which introduced large numbers of African Americans to the idea of Islam, however inaccurate that idea may have been.  Wallace Fard was arrested several times in the beginning of the 1930’s under the pretext that he was inciting violence.  He was expelled from Detroit in 1933 and was never seen after 1934.  His departure from the NOI left the organization without its “promised” leader and Elijah Muhammad quickly moved to fill the vacuum that had been created.  Under his authority, the NOI became more institutionalized with an order of command squarely placing Elijah Muhammad at the top.  Elijah Muhammad was able to cast the claim that he was in fact a messenger of Allah, further alienating the NOI from mainstream Muslims. 

With the death of Elijah Muhammad in 1975, his son Wallace Muhammad, also known as Warith Deen Muhammad, assumed leadership of the NOI. Since his childhood, Warith Deen Muhammad had studying Arabic and the Quran, and he had also made the pilgrimage to the Holy city of Mecca. Through these experiences, he developed a viewpoint that was more in line, yet still distinct from, mainstream Muslims and worked to bring the beliefs and practices of the NOI closer to those of mainstream Islam until the organization as a separate group eventually disbanded. While many of the NOI members accepted Warith Deen’s changes, there were some that sought a return to the traditional teachings of the NOI as emphasized by Wallace Fard and Elijah Muhammad. Louis Farrakhan became the leader of this group and went on to reinstitute the Nation of Islam as an organization, and it continues in this form today.

In 1965, the Immigration and Nationality Act was signed by President Lyndon Johnson and it significantly eliminated immigration barriers that had been in place since the 1920’s.  The relaxation of immigration requirements provided the opportunity for people to once again come to America. Where the previous wave of immigrants had largely been working class individuals seeking employment, the majority of immigrants coming to America in the 1970’s and onward where highly educated and well trained professionals, including physicians and engineers.  This new wave of immigrants came to seek higher education or escape from unrest in their homelands. This recent influx of Muslim immigrants represents by far the largest growth of the Muslim population in the history of America. The immigrants entering in the last three decades of the 20th century are unique with respect to the large numbers that they came in and the positions that they were able to attain within society.  These two factors, in concert with one another, allowed for the development of Islam in America to occur at a remarkable pace.

The arrival of large numbers of immigrants followed relatively the same distribution pattern as had been maintained over the 20th century. Incoming Muslim families settled in large metropolis centers throughout the country. One of the first cities to feature a pronounced Muslim community was the city of Chicago which is now home to more than 40 mosques and Islamic centers. The degree of maturation that the Muslim community has undergone in one generation is also a result of the large inflow of educated professionals and is evidenced by some of the activities the Muslim community is involved with. One of the landmark community programs run by the Muslim community in Chicago is titled the Inter-city Muslim Action Network (IMAN). This Muslim led nonprofit organization develops programs to uphold social justice and combat inner-city poverty. Similarly large and developed communities were quick to rise in Houston, New York, Dearborn and Los Angeles, as well as many other localities. 

As Muslim communities flourished around the nation, the need for overarching institutions to coordinate Muslims and Islamic efforts became apparent.  In response to this need, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) was founded in 1982 with the mission of providing a national platform for Islamic activities and extending assistance to civic and service organizations . Prior to the formation of ISNA, Muslim college students attending universities throughout the United States founded the Muslim Student Association (MSA) in 1963 to create an official Muslim presence on campus and facilitate inter-faith talks.  These major organizations were precursors to several smaller Islamic organizations that were founded in response to local and regional needs. The establishment and growth of these organizations within one generation is a testament to the size, development and organization of the Muslim community within America.

In light of national and global events over the past decade, Islam has been portrayed as something that is foreign to America.  This proposition is rendered baseless when it is appreciated that Islam has been present within America since the time of the founding fathers and its history can be traced from that point to current times.  This presence has allowed for Islam to be intertwined with American history and has manifested in the development of a large American Muslim population that is deeply rooted in our communities throughout the country.

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Christian Priest Becomes Muslim Because Jesus Invites Her to Islam

August 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

If Islam is Foreign, so is Christianity and Judaism

August 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dr. Aslam Abdullah, TMO Editor-in-Chief

Dr.Aslam AbdullahA Jewish attorney supported by a few pro-Republican Christian religious fanatics and fueled mainly by some top notch neo-con hawks are behind the movement to stop the so called Islamic Sharia being applied in the United States. In several states the anti-Sharia bill has been introduced as anti-foreign law. In other words, when someone talks of foreign law, he or she is referring to Islam.

There is so much venom against anything that is related with Islam, specially after our withdrawal from Iraq, that not many have bothered to explain or understand the Sharia as defined in Islam’s main source of guidance, the Quran as Hadith (the sayings of the Prophet (s)), which is often described as the second source of the Islamic guidance is based on and controlled by the Quran.  Many Muslims are defensive, often apologetic on this issue and the opponent of Islamic Sharia are deceptive and provocative. Politicians find in it a vote-grabbing opportunity without any relevance or sense to what they are saying and talking about.

Often labelled anti-foreign law, the so called anti-sharia bill, inadvertently claims that Islam is foreign to the US, hence, laws rooted in Islam are also foreign. However, they do not realize that ant-foreign law bills (anti-Sharia bill) goes against Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and almost every religion with the exception of the religion followed by the native Indians before Christianity imposed itself on America and Mormonism. Christianity or Judaism were not born in Washington or Kansas, not even in Europe. They have their origins in what we now call the Arab lands such as Iraq, Egypt and Hijaz (known as Saudi Arabia).

Thus, under what is defined anti-foreign law, family laws having their roots in Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism or any other religion may fall under its preview. The oath of allegiance to the Pope that Catholic nuns and priests take can be considered its part. The allegiance to the state of Israel expressed strongly by over 6 million Jewish American population can be described a practice based on foreign laws. Not only Eid ul Fitr or Eid ul Adha, but Christmas, Hanuka, Diwali or Buddha Jayanti can be termed as foreign. Circumcision based on Semitic religious laws can also be a foreign law as well as the practice of non-circumcision. There is no limitation in describing what is foreign.

A Hindu wearing a sacred thread around his waist can be described a foreign practice. A Jew wearing a cap can be considered a foreign tradition. A Christian baptizing a child can also be described as foreign. A husband having legitimate physical intimacy after the wedding in a Hindu or Buddhist temple can be considered violating the anti-foreign law. Perhaps, the Mormons may qualify to be one of the few indigenous religions as Joseph Smith seems to have initiated this tradition in America. Perhaps, the practice of polygamy by a few of them can be considered real patriotic as it is based on ideas that were evolved endogenously. But the irony is that Mormonism is not even considered a religion by many mainstream Christian churches.

To save the nation from such crazy people specially insane politicians and Christian and Jewish fanatics, the founding fathers specially had the first amendment saying, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Fearing that states governed by fanatics who through political manipulation may capture the power, the founding fathers also passed the 10th amendment saying that, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Matters pertaining to freedom of religion, definition of religion and foreign and native religions do not fall under the jurisdiction of states. Hence any state law related to religions that overrides the constitutional guarantees can and must be thrown out.

What is happening in Michigan as well as other states is anti-constitution and anti-people. It is happening because a few religious wolves wearing the garb of patriotism are inciting people who do not share their religion. The struggle against such people is no different than the struggle for freedom and civil rights.

These legislation must be challenged by those who take their pledge of allegiance seriously. Besides political action, one must be prepared to challenge these legislative initiatives legally. A movement against anti-Sharia bill is not Muslim, it is American and national.

For Muslims the debate about Sharia is yet another opportunity to explain to the country what the Sharia is about. However, this is an alley, which is not very illuminated. Most Muslims naively feel that the answers to all the issues that Muslims and non-Muslims have been facing in modern world, have already been answered by scholars born in 9th, 10th, and 11th centuries. They do not find any room for any new ideas or arguments in understanding the divine guidance.

Seemingly, those Muslims who have spoken on the media on behalf of Islam have often come up with half cooked explanations based on their understanding of the stagnant jurisprudence of medieval Muslim states and outdated historical anecdotes promoted by a sectarian understanding of Islam.

Even though most Muslim leaders and groups continuously speak about Sharia, few attempts have been made in our modern times to develop an understanding that can be understood not only Muslims but by non-Muslims too. As usual, the Sharia issue has become a fund collecting means on behalf of those who want to present the Sharia opponents as yet another danger to Islam and Muslims.

The opportunity presented by hate mongers should be used by thinking Muslims to develop a better understanding of Sharia through discourses among all sections of educated Muslim American community. Since the Sharia is mainly be defined by the Quran and since this last and lasting divine book of guidance is meant to give guidance to all Muslims, everyone who can contribute to this debate should be involved to ensure that no viewpoint is missed. If the divine message is dynamic in its essence so is be the definition of sharia. If the divine guidance is applicable in all times, so is its sharia.

(A separate article as to how the Quran defines the sharia will follow)

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Wajahat Ali Tackles Islamophobia

August 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Matt O’Brien

wajahat-aliPlaywright, lawyer and humorist Wajahat Ali is known to fellow Fremont residents as a man of many projects. As we meet for an interview downtown, a passer-by interrupts to ask Ali, in Urdu, “What are you working on now?” One answer is scripting an HBO pilot, with novelist Dave Eggers, about a Muslim cop in San Francisco. Ali, 30, has made a career of writing about ordinary Muslim Americans with humor and candor. Another project marks Ali’s first big dive into political advocacy, with a report (due out this week) he has co-authored with researchers at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. Ali says it exposes how a small network of anti-Muslim activists transformed a fringe movement into a mainstream cause.

Q So your report hasn’t even come out yet, but the anti-Islam blogger Pamela Geller has already called you a “stealth jihadist.” Are you offended?

A Not at all. Pam Geller attacked me because I pretty much exposed her and her agenda on a radio station in New York, because she and her allies were mentioned more than 200 times in (Norwegian mass shooter) Anders Breivik’s 1,500-page manifesto. … He was ideologically inspired by people like her and her allies.

Q What made you get into this political project?

A My whole life I’ve been the unintentional token spokesman for all things Muslim and Pakistani. It was not by choice. I call myself the accidental activist. When I was a young kid I was, like, the only open practicing Muslim, and I knew a lot about my Pakistani roots. So inevitably I gave dozens of impromptu lectures about all things Muslim and Pakistani. And (for) a lot of my friends in the Bay Area, I was their only Muslim or Pakistani friend. So they were like, Hey, Waj, what’s up with Pakistan? … The Center for Progress thought, why not go to a non-D.C. guy and think outside the box. I realized, as a student of American history, the current boogeyman is American Muslims.

And I wanted to help turn the tide toward civil discourse, in which we wouldn’t divide Americans based on ethnicity and religion.

Q What do you think of the depiction of Muslim Americans on TV?

A It’s usually framed through the lens of national security, terrorism, violence and fundamentalism. A recent report says Americans have a negative image of Muslims (for) two reasons: ignorance, in the sense that a lot of Americans say they don’t know a Muslim; … and they say the media frames their perceptions of Muslims. … The hope is to move beyond that frame, to show the nuances. We need authentic Muslim American storytellers telling authentic Muslim American narratives.

Q On a blog post you mentioned the Ramadan State of Mind. What’s that?

A On the blog I try to remove what I call the “ascetic monk lens” from which both Muslim Americans and average Americans view Ramadan — Muslims being this spiritual, superhero monk type who have this insane biological system that allows them to fast without water and drink.

We’re like Ivan Drago from “Rocky IV,” right? It’s very inhuman almost, the presentation of Ramadan and Muslims fasting. … I just try to talk like a normal person, to expose my whiny-ness, the fact that sometimes it sucks being Muslim. Sometimes I’m spiritually elevated, sometimes spiritually defeated. Sometimes I just want to eat food.

Q You’ve talked about how kids who grew up in the shadow of 9/11 are helping to push a new narrative. What is that narrative?

A The narrative is: “I am both Muslim and American; one cannot coexist without the other. My values from both identities complement one another and intersect. I am living proof that there is no conflict between the West and Islam. Proof that there needs not be an Armageddon or a clash of cultural values.” Just go talk to these people. They fast during Ramadan and listen to Jay-Z’s latest album. They eat their mom’s dal but then they also eat pho. Their best friend is African-American or Vietnamese-American, and they’ll invite them over for Eid. That’s as American as apple pie, or maybe as American as falafel and hummus.

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Houstonian Corner (Volume 13 Issue 34)

August 18, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Landmark Radio Light Of Islam Enters Into The 18th Year

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Houston is considered as the Mecca of Community Media Outlets, with many Weekly Newspapers; Daily & Weekly Radio Shows. One of the longest running Radio Program is Light Of Islam (www.LightOfIslamRadio.Com)

Community entrepreneur Maqsood Siddiqui has been conducting this show, since August 14th, 1994. It comes on Houston Radio Frequency 1460AM every Friday between 1pm.-2pm. and every Monday between 9pm.-12am. and can also be heard worldwide at www.LightOfIslamRadio.Com

A special program was done this past Monday night to commemorate the entering into the 18th year of Light of Islam. Several community personalities were present including former Islamic Society of Greater Houston President Dr. Moein Butt, President of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce USA (PCC-USA) P. J. Swati, PCC-USA Officer Bearer Abdur Rauf, and many others.
Everyone appreciated the hard work and perseverance of Maqsood Siddiqui for continuing to provide this community service for 17 years.

Maqsood Siddiqui informed: “We started this program because radio had become very popular media among the community, especially those from India-Pakistan-Bangladesh; and to provide voice to the Muslim community to learn our religion and for the preservation of the Muslim identity of our future generations. We have evolved to also provide other services like Hajj package, Matrimonial Services especially for those in late 30s and early 40s, Counseling Services, etc. Our most popular segments have been opportunity for the young ones to come live on air and read from the Quran or presenting Hamd-o-Naat; understanding of Islam by scholars like Hafiz Muhammad Iqbal of Madrasae Islamiah, Late Imam Mohammad Naseem, and many others from throughout the world.”
Special cake was cut on the occasion, and everyone was offered snacks and tea. For more information, one can reach Maqsood Siddiqui at 1-832-298-7860.

Calls for Unity at Houston Consulate Pakistan Day Celebrations

“Mudslinging in the community should finish. If we aspire to secure a progressing and peaceful Pakistan, we need to start here in Houston, through our mature, civil and responsible behavior,” these were the approximate words of Amir Shah of The Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs (OPEN), as he was one of the many speakers, who spoke at the traditional flag hoisting ceremony at the Houston Pakistani Consulate on the occasion of independence day of Pakistan August 14th.

Emcee of the event was Faisal Amin, Honorary Investment Advisor to the Government of Pakistan. He read the message of Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani. Faisal Amin talked about the fact that this year, he has spent more days in Pakistan than USA and have seen very closely all the huge challenges, the government of Pakistan is facing and trying to resolve.

Others who spoke, included the Consul General of Pakistan Honorable Aqil Nadeem (also read President Zardari’s statement), President of Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH) Dr. Aziz Siddiqi, President of Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston (PAGH) Taslim Siddiqui, President of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce USA (PCC-USA) P. J. Swati (talked about enhancing trade links with Pakistan and working on economy to bring Pakistan out of gloom), and President of Houston-Karachi Sister City Association (HKSCA) Saeed Sheikh (talked about importance of law & order in Karachi for the sake of Pakistan).

Interesting thing about the message of Presdient Zardari was that he mentioned about People’s Party, while as the head of state, he needs to talk mainly about the country Pakistan.

“It is nice to see some young ones here among us. Parents need to inspire their children to become journalists, attorneys, and lawyers, other than doctors & engineers, to able to serve the community, USA, Pakistan, and get personal professionals satisfaction of doing something worthwhile,” said Aqil Nadeem, the Consul general of Pakistan.

This traditional Pakistan Day 14th August Flag Hoisting Ceremony was held at the Houston Pakistani Consulate with much fervor and enthusiasm. Despite Ramadan and heat advisory, appreciable number of people attended. It was heartening to see a bunch of youth that had come with Mrs. Mahmood, who has the privilege of once holding Pakistani flag with Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

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Imam Salie: Preparing Islamic Chair at UD Mercy

August 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, TMO

Imam SalieFarmington–August 10–Imam Achmat Salie, who championed an effort to establish an Islamic studies school at Oakland University, is now in the planning process of establishing a similar program at the University of Detroit–Mercy, a Catholic private university in Detroit.

Imam Salie is trying to establish a Chair at UD Mercy for Islamic Studies, and he explains the purpose of creating a chair is “to create a permanent place–if not, every year you have to beg for money, and spend so much time.  Once there is a chair, the money is there for life.  In 10 or 20 years, if I am gone, someone else fills that place.”

He says the chair of Islamic studies would help the Muslim community by fueling mutual understanding across religious lines and even within the Muslim community by providing bridges across the gaps of Shi’a-Sunni and other doctrinal disagreements.  “This will be a cosmopolitan approach to Islam, not an orientalist approach–an insider view, different from the skeptical and suspicious outsider view.  But this will still be objective, there will be analysis, it won’t be superficial.  Muslims speaking for themselves.  Founded by Muslims, with an Islamic ethos, with an accurate portrayal of Islam.”

The Oakland University program eventually failed under fiscal pressures.  And the learning process that Mr. Salie went through from Oakland University definitely shows in his approach to UD Mercy.  First, he chose UD Mercy in part because it is private rather than public.  

“With the recession, a lot of uncertainty in universities, public universities… [T]his is a private university, and there is more stability,” explains Salie.

He has also addressed the fundamental gap in funding that sidelined the Oakland University program.  Imam Salie has now secured “matching funding” from the IIIT, a well-funded Muslim not-for-profit based in Washington DC.

There are many Muslim graduates, Salie says, of UD Mercy’s various schools, practising dentists and lawyers, and he asks that they choose now to give back. 

“Education, like journalism, provides a safe environment, a great way to promote understanding.  Previous communities went through education to create understanding.  Catholic and Jewish communities promoted understanding of themselves by being present at educational institutions.”

The utility of the program, Salie argues, would be that it would provide exposure of Catholics to Islam, to alleviate the sometimes tense relations between the communities.  The program would also provide means for Muslims to speak across sectarian boundaries to one another.

Salie looks forward to this program because he has found “broad appeal” and acceptance at a very high level from the school and from the infrastructure of the Catholic church in Detroit, namely Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron. 

Even more importantly within the Catholic church, the pope has also expressed support for maintaining good relations with Muslims.

“The pope has wonderful relations with Turkey.  There are delegations from the Vatican to Turkey.  But at the lowest level, this type of enlightenment doesn’t necessarily filter down.” 

Imam Salie points to distrust and animosity directed against Muslims from rank-and-file Catholics, including prominent Catholics like Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly.

“One out of four Christians is Catholic,” Salie explains.  “We should not take the Catholic position for granted–they are not all at the same level as the good people at the top.”  Therefore he says it is important to reach out to the Catholic community.

Also, Salie’s experience with Islamic Studies at Oakland University taught him that sometimes the most attentive students are not those you might expect. 

Sometimes practicing Muslims attend, merely hoping for “an easy A, but the quality of their work is very bad.”  Salie cites one atheist student who devoured the material in the Islamic Studies course and then wanted to teach other atheists about Islam.  “Muslims are fooling themselves if they are expecting an easy A.”

Salie’s Islamic Studies classes are a way to reach Muslims who no longer practice.  “I have had students from everywhere, Bosnians, Albanians, Pakistanis… totally disconnected from the religion.”  The Islamic Studies courses are sometimes for these young people a safe way of reacquainting themselves with Islam.

Muslims wanting to participate are welcomed by Salie.  “One way is through donations…. Some people offer money, some offer expertise.”  Salie invites the various communities of Muslims to participate by offering their knowledge of their own practice of Islam, or of their own national community.  Salie emphasizes that specific communities of Muslims will be spoken for by that community, rather than having an intolerant view of any branch of Muslims imposed by an outsider to that community.

Salie is trying to establish an endowment at the university.  “For the first year, we need at least $200,000 to get started. That will be used up the first year.  If we get an endowment, it takes one year to mature, and then with that endowment money in, we don’t need much in donations.”

Imam Salie aims to collect $2,000,000 in donations, which will be matched by IIIT, amounting to $4,000,000 which will be an adequate endowment to build a self-sustaining Islamic Studies program at UD Mercy.

To contribute, please contact salieac@udmercy.edu.  Or call 248-659-2109.

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Thomas Jefferson’s Iftar: 1805

August 11, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

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Thomas Jefferson’s Qur`an

“Ramadan,” said President Obama at a White House iftar dinner in 2010, “is a reminder that Islam has always been a part of America. The first Muslim ambassador to the United States, from Tunisia, was hosted by President Jefferson, who arranged a sunset dinner for his guest because it was Ramadan — making it the first known iftar at the White House, more than 200 years ago.”

The dinner to which the president referred took place on December 9, 1805, and Jefferson’s guest was Sidi Soliman Mellimelli, an envoy from the bey (chieftain) of Tunis who spent six months in Washington. The context of Mellimelli’s visit to the United States was a tense dispute over piracy on American merchant vessels by the Barbary states and the capture of Tunisian vessels trying to run an American blockade of Tripoli.

Mellimelli arrived during Ramadan, and Jefferson, when he invited the envoy to the president’s house, changed the meal time from the usual hour of 3:30 p.m. to “precisely at sunset” in deference to the man’s religious obligation.

Jefferson’s knowledge of Islam likely came from his legal studies of natural law. In 1765, Jefferson purchased a two-volume English translation of the Quran for his personal library, a collection that became, in 1815, the basis of the modern Library of Congress.

This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/iipdigital-en/index.html

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Koran by Heart: A Documentary

August 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Siddiq Ather, TMO

movie_11594_posterIsn’t it amazing when you see s small child reciting the Koran (Qur’an)? Isn’t it even more amazing when young children memorize the entire Koran? What if there was a competition with the best young reciters from around the world? What if someone made a film out of it? Done.

Koran by Heart is an HBO documentary directed by Greg Barker that premiered August 1st, 2011. Koran by Heart is a film about the journey of a few participants chosen for the world youth Koran competition in Cairo, Egypt. Simply put, it is the Olympics of Koran recitation.  There are from everywhere; the main characters in the documentary are from Tajikistan, Maldives, and Senegal. The international Koran competition takes place in Ramadan, so this is the perfect holiday-film to watch. 

In a documentary film, in a sense God is the director. It is natural. It is real. That is why it is beautiful. Koran by Heart is a family friendly film, ideal to view during Ramadan. The film is laced with beautiful recitations of the Koran mixed with top-notch cinematography and covered in a deep and moving storyline.  

It is a story about the competitors just as much as it is about the competition. Questions are raised regarding the political and religious states surrounding the competition and the competitors. Who decides what Islam is the ideal Islam. In every nation people breathe in Islam, and breathe out culture.  Different countries have different ways of conducting similar Islamic practices. Analogous to the cultural medley, there are also mixed views as to the degree of traditionalism practiced with varying Muslim countries, and subdivisions within those countries.

Factors such as economic situation, culture, and history all affect the story of these young individuals. You may laugh, cry, or just happen to fall off the edge of your seat in anticipation during the final scene.  Characters like Nabiollah, Rifdah, and Djemal are lively, determined, and in the end, just kids. Each character has his/her own story, and challenges.

The one story that I feel was the most powerful was that of Rifdah, a girl and also one of the younger participants in the competition. She is a bright child, excelling in all subjects, with loads of energy and sparks of genuine curiosity that you can’t help but smile at. However, she is growing up in a household with mixed views regarding women working. Nabiollah, another young competitor, has different challenges; his father wasn’t able to finish his education because of political turmoil that erupted in the region, and the area they live in at the moment does not have a certified school that teaches secular studies.  Nabiollah and his father both want him to have an education.

Koran By Heart is the film to watch this Ramadan. It is an amazing film that may even inspire you to pick up the Koran and read a few chapters. 

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Women: The Touchstone of Modernization

August 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Laila Zayan

TMO Editor’s Note:  This essay tied for third place in the 2011 TMO Foundation Essay Contest.

Lift the Veil! They say, “Oh poor girl you’re so beautiful you know! It’s a shame that you, cover-up your beauty so! “ She just smiles so graciously, responds reassuringly: “This beauty that I have is just a simple part of me.

This body that I have, no stranger has a right to see. These long clothes and shawl I wear, ensure my modesty, Faith is more essential than fashion, wouldn’t you agree?
“This hijab – This mark of piety! Is an act of faith, the symbol, for all the world to see ! A simple cloth, to preserve her dignity!

So lift the veil from your heart, to see the heart of purity! They tell her girl: “Don’t you know this is the west and you are free! You don’t need to be oppressed, ashamed of your femininity!

Abstract

This paper discusses the public sphere in Islamic nations from the perspectives of women’s uses of their visibility, mobility, and voices. I argue that the sociopolitical transformations unfolding in many Islamic countries are not taking place in the absence of women’s contribution and participation, but quite the opposite. Using examples from different countries, I illustrate how women are shaping, impacting, and redefining the public sphere by producing alternative discourses and images about womanhood, citizenship, and political participation in their societies that prove that Islam and modernity can co-exist without being secular. Pious Shi’i volunteers and Javanese women are strategically using their bodies and their actions to participate in the public sphere and in turn have used the public sphere as a stage in proving that Islamic nations can indeed be modern. 

Roadmap

I will begin by discussing the controversial debate between whether or not an Islamic nation can be modern. In doing so, I aim to provide a backdrop in which the role of women in the public sphere can be analyzed. Next, I will give an explanation of the public sphere and introduce the query about the necessity of secularization in the public sphere. Given this backdrop, I will then discuss how women have become the touchstone of modernization by giving examples of how women in different Islamic cultures have used their visibility, mobility, and voices in creating a new discourse in the public sphere that proves modernity can exist in an Islamic nation.

Can Islam and Modernity Co- exist?

In the wake of September 11th, images, assumptions, and conclusions about Islamic nations began to circulate as media interest in Islam exploded. The military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq led to crash courses on the history of Islam, Muslim attitudes toward democracy, the reasons some women veil, and the question of whether the Western and Muslim worlds are indeed fated to what Samuel Huntington describes as a “clash of civilizations” . Unfortunately, the infatuation with Islamic nations, post 9/11, has led to increasingly skewed depictions of these nations as being the “other” and has led to “culture talk” in which cultures are defined by their “essential” characteristics . Culture talk as Mamdani describes has led to the world being divided into the modern and pre-modern, such that “the former makes culture in which the latter is a prisoner.”

This divide between modern and pre-modern has been an underlying theme that has emerged in depicting Islamic nations as the “other”. For centuries, Islam represented the greatest military power on earth, prevailing economically and socially over Europe, Africa, India, and China. But with time, Europeans were beginning to progress in the civilized arts, leaving the cultural heritage of the Islamic world far behind them. Western innovation coupled with successes on the battlefield resulted in European dominance, and the establishment of Christianity as the state religion. Throughout Christian history, church and state existed side by side, but as different institutions as a result of tension that emerged in their coexistence. These institutions remained separate, “each with its own laws, and jurisdictions, its own hierarchy, and chain of authority”, providing a secular system of rule. In contrast, the idea that any part of human life is in any sense outside the scope of religious law and jurisdiction is alien to Muslim thought. The absence of secularism in Islam, and the refusal of an imported secularism inspired by Christian example, may be attributed to profound differences of belief and experience in the two religious cultures. After looking at the development of Islamic nations’ correlation with modernity, it may be concluded that this debate has plagued the relations between the East and the West. While secularism is believed to be a condition of modernity in some respects, alternative models of modernization that do not include secularism have also been thought to work, only perpetuating this debate further into inquiry.

Public Sphere: A Stage for Modernity

Islamic nations contest secularism as a pre- requisite to modernity by showing how a public sphere acts as a stage where modernity can exist devoid of secularism. A public sphere, as Nilufer Gole describes, is institutionalized and imagined as a site for the implementation of secular and progressive way of life where people can get together and freely discuss and identify societal problems, and through that discussion, influence political action. The public sphere is not simply a pre-established arena; but it is constituted and negotiated through performance, be that through self-presentation, dress code, cultural taste, or leisure activities. Because the public sphere provides a stage for performance rather than an abstract frame for textual and discursive practice, images become vital in the public sphere.

As Gole further describes, in a “Western” public sphere, religious signs and practices have been silenced as the modern public sphere has positioned itself against the Muslim social imaginary and segregated social organization. However, in a Muslim context, women’s participation in public life, corporeal visibility, and social mixing with men all count as modern. Here it is visible that while the public sphere adheres to some of the basic universal principles of the Western public sphere, these principles are translated into social practices that are uniquely altered as well. Because the public sphere provides a stage for performance and discussion, rather than an abstract frame for textual and discursive practice, women are able to prove that their “image” is a site for resisting secular modernity.

The Modern Woman

The ways in which Islam appears into the public sphere challenges Western aspirations for a secular, therefore, modern society. However, I argue that women have become the touchstone of modernity by using their bodies and actions as a means to be both religious, and modern simultaneously. Suzanne Brenner describes how Javanese Muslim women use the veil as their particular language in order to assert themselves and their aspirations in the public sphere. 

In Indonesia’s Island of Java, most Muslim women do not veil, and not all Muslim activists agree with the practice of veiling. Some strongly oppose veiling, arguing that the Qur’an calls for veiling “only for prayer and that its adoption for daily wear is excessive.” Others believe that as a symbol, modern Islamic dress fails to invoke an image of the Indonesian past; it does not summon up any sense of nostalgia or local authenticity”. Instead, some Indonesians believe it invokes a picture of fundamentalist extremism that is “culturally dissonant for them as it is for many Westerners.”

The fact that modern veiling is understood as a departure from local practice is vital in understanding the veiling movement in the Javanese context. The veil represents for some Javanese Muslims both self-reconstruction as well as reconstruction of society through individual and collective self-discipline. A goal for women who veil is to effect religious and social change through the individual and collective actions of members of the Islamic community. The lack of and skepticism of veiling in Java has allowed women to use the veil to signify a new historical consciousness and a new way of life, weighed down neither by their tradition nor by centuries of colonial rule or Western capitalism. The veil in Java stands for a new morality and a new discipline, “whether personal, social, or political-in short, a new, Islamic modernity.” Women see themselves as pioneers in the struggle towards redefining their society as modern, yet religious. They have used their bodies and actions by veiling to spark a discourse in Indonesian society. They have used the public sphere in refashioning themselves to fit their image of modern Islamic womanhood.

Similar to the example of the Javanese women, Lara Deeb illustrates how women in the Shi’i community of al-Dahiyya in Lebanon use volunteerism in the jami’yyas as a display of public piety and spiritual progress through authentication, or full understanding of meaning and purpose, to prove that Islamic nations can be modern while still being “enchanted” with religion.  Deeb states that states that the jami’yyas were believed to be a spiritually developed institutional framework for helping others. A jami’yya volunteer, Maliha, describes the jami’yyas as a place where the connection between spiritual and material progress is clearly practiced and where “authenticated” religious motives lead to the pious modern.

Deeb proves that women are the main actors in illustrating an alternative model of modernity because Muslim women have faced stereotypes held by the West that depict them as backward, passive, and oppressed by their religion. The Muslim woman’s self-conscious confrontations with these stereotypes have led to what Deeb regards as “gender jihad”, or a gender struggle. Women have combated these stereotypes by drawing upon volunteerism in jami’yyas in order to provide evidence of women’s ability to be both religious as well as being connected to the contemporary world. A colleague of Deeb, Hajjeh Amal, speaks to these stereotypes by saying,

“Our goals as women are to improve these images of Muslim women within our society that thinks that women are less than men, and to change the image of the oppressed Muslim woman that exists outside our society. This work (volunteerism in the jam’iyya) is part of our religious duty, because woman is the example for everything. A culture is judged by the level of its women.”

A Shi’i women’s jihad uses the public sphere to take on the work of proving to the West that Muslim women can be both pious and modern. The visibility of the pious Shi’i women- marked by their public activities and volunteerism- is crucial in demonstrating how women have progressed both spiritually and materially, into a pious modern, in contrast to the Western modern.

Conclusion

Women have used their visibility, mobility, and voices to redefine the public sphere by producing alternative discourses and images about womanhood, citizenship, and political participation in their societies that prove that Islam and modernity can co-exist without being secular. As orientalist imagery of the East has been depicted by the media and internalized by the public, women have faced the bud of the stereotypes regarding subordination and inferiority. By looking at the correlation between Islam and modernity through a female lens, one may be able to see how women act as a systematic thread, one that interweaves the power relations between the “East” and the “West”, one that knits the yarn of Islamic society, and illuminates the shades of modernity through the prism of Islam. Rather than seeing women as needing to be saved and liberated in the wake of 9/11, women in Muslim nations have proven that despite their inferior reputation, they are in fact the main actors in the public sphere in proving that modernity and Islam can co-exist.

There is a bibliography attached to this article.  If you wish to read it please visit the tmofoundation website.

Another Angle on the Moon

August 4, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, TMO

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Despite ISNA’s endorsement of the moon calculations performed by the Fiqh Council of North America, the debate in the Muslim community over the necessity of physically sighting the moon continues, and an interesting contribution to that debate has been made by Mr. Nabeel Tarabishy, of Goodsamt, LLC.  Mr. Tarabishy spoke Saturday night at the Islamic Cultural Association before a small gathering on the subject “The Moon and the Islamic Calendar.”

Mr. Tarabishy’s speech delved into background issues concerning the astronomy of moon sighting, and then described his own approach to the issue in relation to the ongoing debate.
He began by exploring the Qur`anic Ayas concerning seeking knowledge, pointing out the important issue that Allah in Holy Qur`an said that the intercalation of the months that had been done by the pagan Arabs before Islam was not just wrong, not just kufr, but was “excessive kufr,” thus showing the importance to Allah of our seeking to understand and abide by the underlying structure of the universe determined the Almighty.  “We can’t change the facts of the universe according to our desire, we must accept facts, and truth,” he said.

Allah Himself divided the year into 12 months, the week into 7 days.

Tarabishy also pointed out that no world civilization has existed without a calendar, and he explored the history of the Christian Julian and Gregorian calendars.  He explained that the lunar year is 11 days shorter than the solar year, and he spoke about the intercalation done by the Jewish and Chinese calendars–which he explained is done in a “less chaotic” fashion than was done by the pagan Arabs before Islam.

Then Tarabishy explored the physical dimensions of the lunar and solar progression through the seasons and months and years, and described the physical positions of those three astronomical bodies over the year.

Then he introduced his argument that the Islamic calendar–as a window to our history and culture and more–should be made as predictable as the solar calendar, arguing that it should be possible to plan travel to coincide with any specific day of the Islamic year, thus calculations will be necessary.  He listed extremely prominent Muslim theologians who he said had endorsed calculation, including most notably Imam Shafi’i.

His chief requirements of such a calculation-based Islamic calendar were that “false positives” and “false negatives” contradictory to the physical sightings of the moon should be avoided or excluded.

To learn more, please visit  his website, goodsamt.com.

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Making Sense Out of Christian Evangelism

July 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

There are many Christian missionaries that are trying win souls to Christianity. One of them is Rev. Hicham Chehab, head of the Chicagoland Lutheran Muslim Mission Association (CLMMA). He is based in Chicago and is heading a campaign to convert Muslims in to Christianity. I have not been able to easily uncover any Zionist connections, which are obvious in the case of several other “former Muslim” spokespersons for pro-Israel organizations. In his facebook bio, Chehab does not state the Lebanese militia to which he belonged (or for which he was trained). It is critical information, and its absence could make all his claims dubious. It is certainly profitable to claim to be a former Islamic extremist now taking shelter in Christianity. However, nothing that I can find in the immediately accessible data can prove that his conversion was not sincere. His problems with Islam seem to be a result of upbringing and are very similar to other complaints among Muslims in Muslim cultures throughout the world.

Chehab attended the Islamic and Arab/Lebanese Nationalist Makased school system. His main issue with their approach to religion was this:

“After a few weeks in my Muslim school the teacher started giving us books that today we call political Islam. They said, the world is divided into two parts, the world of Islam and the world of Infidels.”

To be honest, it’s kind of hard to argue with this because there is at least one hadith saying as much. The issue of concern is interpretation and context. In my experience with Arab immigrant Muslims, their cultural interpretation of such verses tends to be vastly different than the way a college educated American Muslim would interpret it. It is possible, within the context of his political and educational status, that this type of teaching could have been perceived negatively by a sensitive person seeking higher truths. He may not have realized that there are other ways to interpret Islam.

When we hear about a Jew, who is tired of the “us versus them” mentality of the synagogue, accepts Islam, we rejoice. And yet, when a Muslim, who is tired of the “us versus them” mentality of the mosque, accepts Christianity, we grieve. I am not sure that we are in a position to judge in these matters, in many cases. If the person’s personal healing path leads them in a certain way, and inspires them to be a better person, only God truly knows if that is the path most suited to accessing God, given that person’s personal peculiarities. Chehab was clearly an emotionally conflicted individual, who made a choice to reject what his parents taught him and embraced a new spiritual path as a conscious choice. Maybe the version of Islam that his parents taught him was worthy of rejection. We can’t know. What we can’t deny is that Muslim activists study Bible verses to help them approach Christians with the intention of converting them to Islam.

I think every Christian has the right to preach the Gospel to anyone that is willing to listen just as every Jew has the right to preach the Ten Commandments and every Muslim has the right to teach about Islam. We argue with the best of arguments, and he who makes the most sense will gain the largest following.

The issue with this Muslim-Turned-Christian-Minister is that he was given a job to train immigration officials and also taught an anti-terrorism course to the Army Reserve. His connection with the government creates questions as to his actual motives. I think, as a majority Christian nation, it probably does help the US understanding when a former Muslim can explain Muslims to Christians using Christian language. But if you truly want to understand Islam, you also have to talk to someone who believes in it. That is where the CAIR complaint comes in. Maybe it’s not so much an issue of getting rid of the evangelist but of including more voices in the debate.

Islam is a beautiful religion. Christianity is also a beautiful religion, and they are intertwined. The interesting thing is, when you go to Palestine and observe the oldest Christian community in the world, you don’t see these boundaries between Islam and Christianity. Muslims and Christians intermarry, they give each other gifts on their respective holidays. When the Christians parade down the street in honor of the Virgin Mary, their Muslim neighbors join in. The Christians are as happy on Eid as anybody else. There is no conflict. Christianity is a very broad belief spectrum, in fact there are sects of Christianity that believe like Muslims do, that Christ did not die upon the cross.

It is so important for Muslims to love Jesus as all prophets, and especially the five holiest prophets, Prophet Muhammad (s) who is the best of them, and Jesus (as), Moses (as), Ibrahim (as), and Nuh (as).

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Christian Conservative Terrorist Causes Havoc in Norway

July 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dr. Aslam Abdullah

Norway is a liberal democracy. It is ruled by Labor Party. It has liberal policies on on a number of social issues. On July 22, it was hit with the worst terrorist attack on its territory by a right wing Christian conservative. Even though the so-called terrorist experts claim that he acted alone, the hand of other right wing Christian conservative individuals and groups should not be ruled out. With what is being taught in several conservative churches against liberalism, socialism, non-Christian religions (especially Islam and Judaism), the action of the Norwegian terrorist is not out of line of the dominant thinking.  The 32-year-old Norwegian man who allegedly went on a shooting spree on the island of Utoya has been identified as Anders Behring Breivik, according to multiple reports.The gunman was dressed as a police officer and gunned down young people as they ran for their lives at a youth camp, which means that he might have some Christian conservative sympathizers in the police force.The possibility of receiving support from some Christian conservative individuals or groups from the US should also not be ruled out. After all, Christian conservatism emerged as a major force in the US.

Breivik belongs to “ring-wing circles” in Oslo. He has been known to write to right-wing forums in Norway and is a self-described nationalist who has also written a number of posts attacking Islam On July 17 he posted a quote from philosopher John Stuart Mill on his twitter account saying: “One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100 000 who have only interests.” On a Facebook account Breivik describes himself as having Christian conservative views.

Obviously, not all Christians subscribe to the theology of Christian conservatives who regard everyone who does not believe in their doctrine as pagan and destined  for hell. They regard liberalism as the major threat to their way of life. Christian conservative talk show hosts in the United States fill the airwaves with hatred against all those who have liberal attitudes.

The initial reaction of the media was to point fingers at Muslim extremists. Initially, several experts concluded that either Libyan backed terrorist groups or pro- Afghan Taliban groups might be the culprits. However, as details emerged, those experts went into hiding. When it became known that the gunman was a Norwegian ultra right wing extremist, few spoke about the theology of Conservative Christianity or the danger it poses to democracies or free societies all over the world. Not one recalled Timothy Mcveigh, responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing. It is not a coincidence that this terrorist attack came at a time when the champion of right wing ideas, the media empire of Rupert Murdoch is in terrible shape facing challenges for its survival.

Terrorism in all its forms and shapes is wrong and must be condemned. One cannot blame an entire religion for the terrorist act of a few. Had it been a Muslim perpetrator, the experts might have already concluded that Islam is a religion that cannot find itself at peace with the West and Democracy and Muslims living in Europe and America cannot be trusted.

What Breivik did in Norway is the natural outcome of the theology of arrogance and hatred that is taught in several churches around the world in the name of Christianity. We must realize that terrorism is not related with one religion or race or ethnic group. It is a threat every religious community and country faces. Instead of pointing fingers at religions, we must all come together to stand all those who believe that violence is the only method to ensure that point of view is heard. Violence must be rejected by all who believe in the sanctity of human life and with a clear understanding that the Divine will is not seek the destruction of the human race but to help people find common ground–to create a world where people can live the faith of their choice without any coercion.

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Unity in Diversity

July 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Aysha Jamali

This is the second prize winner in the TMO Foundation 2011 Essay Contest.

AJ_photo

I often look back at my childhood and note the split in my life, as well as in the lives of so many, made distinct after September 11, 2001. Ever since, I’ve had to answer for what I believe or prove who I was to people who had never focused so intensely on the terms “Muslim” or “Islam.” It was tiring knowing that people were looking at me with preconceived notions, and it was tiring always approaching people with the attitude of clearing misconceptions.

But I accepted it. I accepted that if I wanted people to know my Islam, then I would have to be comfortable answering the endless stream of questions – many bizarre and ignorant, but always important.

Then the American people, both Muslims and others, discovered something. While I was explaining what Islam meant to me, someone else was explaining what Islam meant to them. We began to discuss with each other about what we believed, why we believed and how we applied those beliefs to our lives. Our stories were born.

We were forced to compare our Muslim identities to those who claimed to destroy lives in the name of Islam. I was not like those people. My family was not like those people. My community was not like those people. I knew that. So what were we like?

We were diverse. We were diverse in age, in heritage, in interests; but always unified in faith. At first, this vast and intangible diversity I discovered confused me. I thought it would be easier if all Muslims were the same – one religion meaning one type of follower.

Then I uncovered the deception in that statement. I heard different narrations from Muslims, even those who looked just like me, about what Islam meant to them. The true meaning of diversity came out. It wasn’t limited to speaking global languages or swapping samosa recipes for falafels. It was deeper. It was diversity in experiences; diversity in thought.

So Muslims cannot be seen as one programmed, unchanging group – whether we’re from Indonesia or Palestine, the East Coast or the West Coast. Nor was it ever our purpose to be so. As God says in verse 13 of chapter 49 in the Quran, “Oh mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another …” We were created as different groups not for quarreling but for knowing each other.

I’m only beginning to understand diversity in Islam. We’re all only beginning to understand that. But it’s evident in our discussions that this understanding has begun. Just in January, the Islamic Society of North America held its first Diversity Forum in Michigan. It featured sessions on Shi’a-Sunni relations, immigrant versus indigenous experiences and encouraging an appreciation for diversity under the theme of “Realizing The Dream: Finding Strength Through Diversity.”

This forum seemed to have come ten years too late. I thought about how much discussions like that would have benefited me back in 2001. But it’s important to realize that those struggles my community and I faced then, we are still facing now. We’ve almost been thrust back in time with the recent death of United States “Enemy Number One,” having to answer those same decisive and identity-hinged questions again.

However, it’s not a matter of redefining yourself but of defining yourself. We discover our stories and our paths to this one, unified appreciation and understanding we have of God and His message. It is under this unity that when defining ourselves, we also discover our diversity.

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An Historic Achievement by MPAC

July 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

With the proliferation of Islamophobia in the United States and the spike in hate crimes directed at the Muslim community, organizations to counter these phenomena and to project the truth while at the same time working within the Muslim community for empowerment, are essential if we are to survive as a democracy.

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) has stepped up to the bat in these arenas. Last week well deserved formal recognition took place in the form of a telephone call from President Barrack Obama to Haris Tarin. Mr. Tarin directs MPAC’s Washington, D. C. office.

During the course of the conversation the President recognized Mr. Tarin’s work with the Muslim community and through that community to the United States. Specifically, he praised Mr. Tarin’s work with Muslim youth, with interfaith clergy and lay persons, and for empowering the contributions of Muslims through civic engagement.

Mr. Tarin replied by telling the President that MPAC has a deep commitment to this nation and to Islam as do other Muslim institutions.

The telephone call is a testament to the success of MPAC in countering Islamophobia and in working within the Muslim community and reaching outward to other communities to establish roots that make Islam an integral part of the American fabric.

Mr. Tarin was raised and educated in Southern California. He is pursing an advanced degree at Georgetown University where he is studying at the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.

Mr. Tarin, in his capacity as Executive Director, intersects with many government agencies and has addressed numerous conferences and symposia. He is a “go to” person for media outlets.

MPAC was established in 1986. Its vision was and continues to be to establish a vibrant Muslim community and to enrich with Islamic virtues the American society it is a part of. MPAC promotes the leadership of young Muslims, and it is a resource and partner to various government agencies.

Its awards and the programs it has formulated are many. Herewith a few: In partnership with the Progressive Jewish Alliance, MPAC formed New Ground, a group dedicated to Muslim-Jewish understanding; MPAC became a consultant to a television series “Aliens in America”; MPAC Senior Advisor, Dr Maher Hathout, received the John Allen Bugs Award from the Los Angeles Human Relations Commission, and MPAC, after a decade  of work, persuaded the Bush administration to desist from use of the term “jihad” in its official communications.

To find out more about the Muslim Public Affairs Council, please access their web site at: www.mpac.org. Mr. Tarin’s work may also be accessed at that web site.

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Tax Dollars Used Against Islam and Muslims

July 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dr. Aslam Abdullah, TMO

A few weeks ago, a former Palestinian Muslim, who is now an ultra conservative Christian equated Islam with terrorism describing the two inseparable. There is nothing new in what the so called former PLO terrorist said or says on a regular basis. In the last 10 years, several individuals claiming to speak on behalf of Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism have spoken openly against Islam and Muslim Americans in particular. Expressing one’s opinion is everyone’s right and that right must be preserved even if it is based on misconception or lies.

What is problematic is that the Homeland Security invited the so called terrorist-turned Christian to an official event attended by more than 300 law enforcement officials in South Dakota. This is a violation of our constitution that clearly indicates that the people’s tax dollars would not be spent in either promoting or targeting a particular religion. The so called expert was paid 5,000 plus other expenses.  In other word, the our tax dollars were spent on supporting someone whose anti-Islam agenda is well known. If the Homeland Security had invited a Muslim American to counter his argument, one could have argued that the purpose of the event was to have a balanced perspective. However, by giving money and podium to an avid anti-Islam fanatic, the Homeland Security has revealed its hatred of Islam, a crime which is in breach of the constitution and which deserves to be thoroughly investigated.

Ten after the September 11 attack, Muslim Americans are still deemed unfit by many law enforcement agencies or agents to be partners in the country’s fight against terrorism. This policy or attitude is hurting the country and wasting its tax dollars money. Seemingly, the Homeland Security and other federal and state agencies have wasted millions of dollars in rewarding anti-Muslim and anti-Islam experts on terrorism by giving them legitimacy and authenticity through invitation to officially organized events for state and federal agents.

Most of the so called experts on Islam belong to several religious groups who anti-Islam position is well known. They use the Tax payers money and resources to promote their religious agenda and to make money for themselves. The country does not benefit from their expertise.

One is entitled to his or her opinion on Islam or any other faith but when that opinion is given legitimacy by agencies that are meant to uphold the constitution and the citizens, then it deserves the attention of all those who are serious about the sanctity and supremacy of the constitution. As far as opinions against Islam are concerned, we Muslims must be aware of the task that we have at hand, i.e. challenging the misconception and informing the country and the world that there is another side of the explanation that can be offered only by those practice this faith and who understands its in and out better than those so called experts who have found a new opportunity to mint money from the new venture that we can term as “Islamic Threat to the West.”

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Stand Up to Herman Cain

July 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Eugene Robinson

It is time to stop giving Herman Cain’s unapologetic bigotry a free pass. The man and his poison need to be seen clearly and taken seriously.

Imagine the reaction if a major-party presidential candidate — one who, like Cain, shows actual support in the polls — said he “wouldn’t be comfortable” appointing a Jew to a Cabinet position. Imagine the outrage if this same candidate loudly supported a community’s efforts to block Mormons from building a house of worship.

But Cain’s prejudice isn’t against Mormons or Jews, it’s against Muslims. Open religious prejudice is usually enough to disqualify a candidate for national office—but not, apparently, when the religion in question is Islam.

Sunday, Cain took the position that any community in the nation has the right to prohibit Muslims from building a mosque. The sound you hear is the collective hum of the Founding Fathers whirring like turbines in their graves.

Freedom of religion is, of course, guaranteed by the Constitution. There’s no asterisk or footnote exempting Muslims from this protection.

Cain says he knows this. Obviously, he doesn’t care.

Cain’s remarks came as “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace was grilling him about his obsession with the attempt by some citizens of Murfreesboro  to halt construction of a mosque. Wallace noted that the mosque has operated at a nearby site for more than 20 years, and asked, sensibly, what the big deal is.

Cain launched into an elaborate conspiratorial fantasy about how the proposed place of worship is “not just a mosque for religious purposes” and how there are “other things going on.”

This imagined nefarious activity, it turns out, is a campaign to subject the nation and the world to Islamic religious law. Anti-mosque activists in Murfreesboro are “objecting to the fact that Islam is both a religion and a set of laws, sharia law,” Cain said. “That’s the difference between any one of our other traditional religions where it’s just about religious purposes.”

Let’s return to the real world for a moment and see how bogus this argument is. Presumably, Cain would include Roman Catholicism among the “traditional religions” that deserve constitutional protection. It happens that our legal system recognizes divorce, but the Catholic Church does not. This, by Cain’s logic, must constitute an attempt to impose “Vatican law” on an unsuspecting nation.

Similarly, Jewish congregations that observe kosher dietary laws must be part of a sinister plot to deprive America of its God-given bacon.

Wallace was admirably persistent in pressing Cain to either own up to his prejudice or take it back. “But couldn’t any community then say we don’t want a mosque in our community?” Wallace asked.
“They could say that,” Cain replied.

“So you’re saying any community, if they want to ban a mosque. . .,”

Wallace began.

“Yes, they have the right to do that,” Cain said.

For the record, they don’t. For the record, there is no attempt to impose sharia law; Cain is taking arms against a threat that exists only in his own imagination. It makes as much sense to worry that the Amish will force us all to commute by horse and buggy.

This demonization of Muslims is not without precedent. In the early years of the 20th century, throughout the South, white racists used a similar “threat” — the notion of black men as sexual predators who threatened white women — to justify an elaborate legal framework of segregation and repression that endured for decades.

As Wallace pointed out, Cain is an African American who is old enough to remember Jim Crow segregation. “As someone who, I’m sure, faced prejudice growing up in the ’50s and the ’60s, how do you respond to those who say you are doing the same thing?”

Cain’s response was predictable: “I tell them that’s absolutely not true, because it is absolutely, totally different. . . . We had some laws that were restricting people because of their color and because of their color only.”

Wallace asked, “But aren’t you willing to restrict people because of their religion?”

Said Cain: “I’m willing to take a harder look at people that might be terrorists.”

Generations of bigots made the same argument about black people.

They’re irredeemably different. Many of them may be all right, but some are a threat. Therefore, it’s necessary to keep all of them under scrutiny and control.

Bull Connor and Lester Maddox would be proud.

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Community News (V13-I30)

July 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

New Mosque planned in Lombard

LOMBARD, IL–The Muslim Community Association of the Western Suburbs has presented a revised set of proposals to the Dupage County Board in hopes for approval for a new mosque plan.

The groups wants to construct a roughly 43,000-square-foot mosque on nearly 4 acres along the south side of Roosevelt Road, just east of I-355, the Daily Herald reports.

In a move that could help win county board support for the conditional-use permit request, the mosque plan has been modified to include partial access to Roosevelt.

Mark Daniel, the group’s attorney, said IDOT officials have agreed to allow a right-turn only lane for vehicles exiting the site. Anyone traveling to the mosque still would have to use to use nearby Lawler Avenue to enter the parking lot.

The board could issue a ruling as early as next week.

Laredo to have new mosque

LAREDO,TX–Laredo will soon have a new mosque to cater to the growing needs of the Muslim community in the area. Previously they used to worship at rented spaces.

The new space will be close to 2,000 sq. feet and will be able to accommodate the school they are currently running.

Dr. Zakariah Hamdan,one of the leaders of the project, told a local news channel “for many years there hasn’t been a place for the Muslim community to perform their prayers and practice aspects of the religion. So this will be a very important step.”

Leaders also said they hope this will be an attraction to draw more people of the Muslim faith that are interested in living here.

Bilal Ahmed serves as the faculty speaker at commencement

ROCHESTER,NY–Dr. Bilal Ahmed, associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Rochester Medical School, was selected by the Class of 2011 to serve as the faculty speaker at the commencement. His well received speech focused on adding the human touch to the medical profession.

He is closely involved with resident and medical student education and has received more than 30 teaching awards from the University in the last 10 years.

His particular areas of interest are bedside teaching and practice based learning.

He is currently boarded in Internal Medicine, as well as in Hospice and Palliative care.

Zarina Jamal wins scholarship

ROXBURY,MA–Zarina Jamal, a graduating senior of O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science, is among the few students who have been honored  with the Blackstone/Franklin Square Neighborhood Association’s annual scholarship. It is given to students who attain oustanding merit or contribute to the community in unique ways. Jamal was selected for the pro-active measures she took in launching her school’s tennis team. She will be attending the Wake Forest University in the coming semester.

Clearing misconceptions about Islam at California Fair

SACRAMENTO, CA–The Why Islam? group has set up a booth at the California State Fair to educate the public about Islam. So far hundreds of people have stopped by and asked questions.
The group has been holding a booth at the fair since 2008. “I think it will be as good or better than last year,” said Shane Yoder, president of the Sacramento Chapter Islamic Circle of North America, which sponsored the WhyIslam? boot, told the Sacramento Bee.

The State Fair booth is only part of an effort in the Sacramento area to educate non-Muslims about the faith, said Yoder. ICNA, which focuses on outreach and education of Islam, is sponsoring a billboard campaign – 16 will appear in the region next month – coinciding with the holy month of Ramadan.

The group will also give 500 backpacks to needy children.

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