Community News (V11-I47)

November 12, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Islamic Ctr of Long Island expansion

LONG ISLAND,NY–This is one case of continuing expansion. The Islamic Center of Long Island was formed in 1982. Ever since then it has evolved from a small brick home to its current  home of 10, 000 square foot of facilities including a mosque, library, classroom, and administrative office. Last month it announced that it is again expanding to meet the needs of its growing congregants.

According to West Bury Times the ICLI is seeking to build a a three story, 19,000 square addition to the existing structure. It has purchases four adjoining homes and construct a parking area. It will add 87 parking spots as compared with the current 35. But it is still short of 221 spots as required by the by-laws. Therefore the center has filed an application with the zoning board to receive a parking variance.

A hearing on the application is expected to be held on Nov.16.

Investigation into imam’s death ends

YERMO,CA– The San Bernardino County Sherriff’s Department has stated that its investigation into the mysterious death of a local Muslim in a house fire hasn’t produced any results and that the case is being now shelved. They have been unable to find any clues or suspects.

Ali Mohammed died on June 27 while visiting a property that his family had moved out of when suddenly the building was enveloped in flames.

Investigators had earlier claimed that the fire was human-caused and not a result of faulty equipment.

The same property was repeatedly the target of vandalism and hate attacks. 

Police investigate break-in at mosque

DURHAM, NC–Durham police are investigating a break-in at the Masjid Ibad Ar-Rahman mosque, 3034 Fayetteville St.

Mosque leaders found windows and doors broken early on the morning of Nov. 2. They said two flat-screen monitors, a printer and a computer were stolen.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Durham police Investigator K. D. Emanuel at 919-560-4415, ext. 29306, or Crime Stoppers at 919-683-1200.

Lackawanna halal facility opposed

LACKAWANNA, NEW YORK–Angry protestors vent their voices at the Lackawanna City Council last Tuesday night to protest a plan for a halal slaughterhouse in the area. The protestors and those in the council supporting them appeared to be ill informed on the halal method.

“I did research the Halal method and I’m not happy with what I read,” said First Ward Councilmember Andrea Haxton, according to WNED.

It was not readily apparent what kind of research she did.

City Council members told the citizens they had nothing to do with approval of the meat facility and can’t stop it even if they are opposed.

“It has not and will not come in front of city council because we have, unfortunately, no role in this,” said Councilmember Geoffrey Szymanski.

The slaughterhouse is expected to open within a few months.

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Houstonian Corner V11-I45

November 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Atmosphere Of Fear & Terrorism Should Not Be Promoted In Pakistan – Change In Pakistan Is Expected In Few Months: Aneeq Ahmed

Picture Y An Amnesty International Report of June 2007 had shown concern for the safety of seasoned journalist Aneeq Ahmed, formerly of Talk Show Alif on GEO and now Talk Show Aaghaz on ARYOne World, as he was on a hit list of 12 journalists, who were being threatened by a political party (Muttaihidah Qaumi Movement) and many people believe that it was being done in the background by the Establishment in Pakistan.

This past Monday evening, media personalities of Houston met with Aneeq Ahmed in an informal setting, when he was invited for dinner at Usmania Restaurant by Tahir Wafaqani of Urdu Times Houston. Aneeq Ahmed was on the tour of USA, delivering lectures on Pakistan and Islam in Chicago and New York to a group of dedicated Pakistanis working under the name of FOCUS. Later on he has been to Dallas and Houston meeting personal friends and family members.

Aneeq Ahmed has been elected a member as well as office bearer of the Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi, which has polished many talents of arts and literature in Pakistan. He has been famous for arranging many unforgettable events at Arts Council.

Over the years Aneeq Ahmed has come forward as one of the leading Talk Show Anchors, who’s probing questions and excellent knowledge of the subject matter, makes his programs most informative and people are always looking forward to his next series. At times, some people feel he asks very tough questions to his guests to make them feel embarrassed, but actually that is not the case, as his aim is to bring out maximum useful information for his viewers from these experts of various fields.

His programs with people like Dr. Israr Ahmed, Zaid Hamid, Dr. Lal Khan, Justice Javed Iqbal, and many others, about contemporary issues of religion, economics, good governance, social justice, arts-&-literature; etc.; solutions of these problems from religious and other points of view; will always be most valuable pieces in the achieves of intellectuals of today and tomorrow. He has brought many taboo topics of the society, so as to enlighten the people. From one of his interviews to an Indian media, we have learnt that he believes in the ideology of Pakistan to be “Pakistan Ka Matlab Kia La Illaha IllAllah”, but says that does not mean that a Muslim is an extremist or terrorist.

In the discussion session after dinner, Aneeq Ahmed informed that present political set-up has made mistakes over the past one year and has become weak to the extent that within the next one to two months, we can expect a change. “Best thing for Pakistan and stability of Institutions of Pakistan is that this change should happen within the parliament and President may have to leave the scene,” added Mr. Ahmed.

Talking about his recent meeting in USA with Former President Pervez Musharraf, he said there is very little possibility that he will ever able to go back to Pakistan, due to the charges of murder against him in Bughti Baluchistan Case; hundreds of killings in Lal Masjid & Madrasae Hafza; breach of Article Six of Constitution of Pakistan which means death penalty; and other similar things. Even his former colleagues in Army, who have restored back the good image of the Army after much effort, want him to stay away from Pakistan.

Aneeq Ahmed said that nobody can deny that there are very serious problems of security, law-&-order, economic down-turn, and others. But solutions do not lie in panicking and creating an atmosphere of fear and more terrorism.

He said President Obama is facing tough choices to come out of Afghanistan or not. But if he does, it will be a big setback to India because of Indian involvement in Afghanistan.

Among those present at Houston Dinner with Aneeq Ahmed were Tahir Wafaqani of Urdu Times Houston; Tariq Khan & Jameel Siddiqui of Pakistan Chronicle / Pakistan Journal; Saeed Gaddi of Rajput Media Services (Pakistan Post and Sangeet Radio Houston); Saleem Syed of Radio Young Trang; Moin Pirzada of Radio Perdes Houston; Pervez Jafri of Aligarh Alumni Association; ILyas Hasan Choudry of Muslim Observer; and some relatives & friends of Aneeq Ahmed.

Aneeq Ahmed is a Karachiite and was brought up in North Nazimabad. His family later on moved to Gulshanae Iqbal in 1977. He did his Masters in International Relations in 1988 from the University of Karachi. Initially he started off as a journalist. Thereafter in 1990 he joined a Textile Mill as Factory Manager and worked there for 2 years. In 1992 he joined an advertising agency as a copywriter. He always had finesse for reading and writing. From 1999 to 2000 he worked for Interflow, again an Ad agency. He started working for GEO in 2002 and later on has been with ARY since 2005. He is an accomplished Anchor, Producer & Researcher.

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Mumbai Terror Survivor Embraces Islam

October 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Islamnewsroom.com

NEW YORK – An American Catholic and survivor of a terrorist attack in Mumbai, India last November overcame hatred and opened his mind to learn and discover Islam and becomes a Muslim.

Dennis O’Brien Survivor of Mumbai Terror Attack ACCEPTS ISLAM

Dennis O’Brien, a Catholic, wanted to comprehend the basis of faith of people accused of committing the attack in Mumbai. He discovered in fact, the gunmen were certainly not following Islam at all. In fact, anyone who might take the time to open their eyes, open their minds and open their hearts would have to come to the very same conclusion.

Sunday, just after Eid salat and standing before a crowd of thousands, Dennis O’Brien embraced Islam.

He declared.. ..his belief – “There is only one God and the Prophet Muhammad is his last messenger”.

O’Brien, who heads up the education committee of St Anthony’s Catholic Church in Wilmington, Delaware, says this was a surprise, even to him. But said he was at peace with it.

“Today I feel free of sin,” he remarked.

After several months of studies and asking questions of Muslim friends and associates, “I feel comfort in Islam,” he said.

O’Brien also said he wanted to express solidarity with Muslims, even though extremists who say they practice the faith “tried to kill me”.

Pastor John McGinley, of St Anthony’s, said Sunday he had not heard of O’Brien’s embrace of Islam. McGinley said he knew O’Brien is inquisitive and has expressed concern about the young men involved in the Mumbai attacks.

He would not say if the declaration of another faith would affect O’Brien’s position at the church, noting he had not spoken to him about Sunday’s events. “I think this is part of his journey of faith and we can work with that,” McGinley said.

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Flying Imams’ Ship Comes In

October 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Paul Walsh and James Walsh

imams_20090219111022747_320_240
Imams in Minneapolis airport.

A settlement has been reached in the “Flying Imams” federal lawsuit that was filed by six Muslim men who claim they were falsely arrested on a US Airways jet in the Twin Cities three years ago because of their religious and ethnic backgrounds.

According to federal court records, the settlement was reached Monday and filed with the court today.

A New York attorney for the imams, Omar Mohammedi, this afternoon called the settlement “satisfactory to the plaintiffs.” Mohammedi added that money is involved, but he declined to elaborate.

Another attorney for the imams, Frederick Goetz of Minneapolis, said a few details remained to be resolved before the settlement is finalized.

One of the imams, Marwan Sadeddin of Phoenix, told the Associated Press that the settlement does not include an apology but he considers it an acknowledgment that a mistake was made. He said he couldn’t divulge the terms because both sides had agreed not to discuss them publicly. “It’s fine for all parties. It’s been solved. … There is no need for a trial,” Sadeddin said.

Officials with the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), which operates the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and is a defendant in the suit, issued a statement Tuesday afternoon announcing the settlement.

“Law enforcement officials did what they believed was appropriate to ensure the safety of travelers based on the information available at the time,” said the MAC’s general counsel, Tom Anderson. “We will continue to be vigilant in maintaining the security of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and the safety of travelers who use it.”

According to the statement by the MAC, “the commission’s liability insurance policy limits potential financial exposure in such cases to $50,000. The insurer has the right to assume control of the defense or settlement of claims and exercised that right in this case.”

Arizona-based U.S. Airways also is a defendant in the suit. The airline has yet to comment today.

CAIR, the Washington-based civil rights organization that took up the imams’ cause soon after they were removed from the plane, hailed the settlement.

“[This] is a clear victory for justice and civil rights over fear and the phenomenon of ‘flying while Muslim’ in the post-9/11 era,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad.

The case sparked ongoing debate about the power of law enforcement to override personal rights in the name of security.

The imams were arrested in November 2006 while returning from the North American Conference of Imams on a jet bound for Phoenix. A passenger had passed a note to a flight attendant noting what he considered suspicious activity.

FBI Special Agent Michael Cannizzaro and airport police officers had argued that the arrest and removal of the imams was valid because there were reasons to be suspicious of a crime.

In July, U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery ruled that the suit could move forward.

“The right not to be arrested in the absence of probable cause is clearly established and, based on the allegations … no reasonable officer could have believed that the arrest of the Plaintiffs was proper,” Montgomery ruled then.

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Community News (V11-I40)

September 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Adnan Zulfiqar hired as UPenn Interfaith fellow

adnan zulfiqar

The University of Pennsylvania has hired a Muslim scholar as its interfaith fellow.Adnan Zulfiqar – a 2008 graduate of Penn Law and a “brilliant scholar,” according to University Chaplain Chaz Howard – will serve as an Interfaith Fellow and Campus Minister to the Muslim community.

“The concept was that our office wanted to provide a fellowship where the campus religious groups who do not have full-time dedicated staff could have that,” Howard told the Daily Pennsylvanian.

So far, Zulfiqar has received a warm welcome.

“Adnan is fantastic not only because he’s very knowledgeable about everything that has to do with Islam, but also because he has tried everything you would want to do after finishing your undergraduate degree,” said Muslim Student Association communications chairwoman and College junior Roxana Moussavian.

Originally from Alexandria, Va., Zulfiqar is currently completing a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Religion and Anthropology from Emory University and a Masters from Georgetown University.

His research focuses primarily on Islamic law and history, politics and governance in the Middle East and South Asia, and law in the developing world.  He previously helped draft the Penal Code of the Maldives, serving as a Team Leader helping to synthesis multiplelegal systems into one comprehensive code.  Zulfiqar also served as a legislative staffer and personal aide to U.S. Senator Max Cleland(D-GA) advising him on immigration, education and foreign policy matters.  In addition, he has been an associate at the Legal Resources Center in Pretoria, South Africa, a visiting scholar at the Center for Excellence in Public Law and Human Rights in Tehran, Iran and a presidential fellow at the Salzburg Global Seminar. 

Zulfiqar  serves as an Adjunct Professor at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and Arcadia University.  He received his B.A. in Religion and Anthropology from Emory University, M.L.S. in International Affairs (thesispending) from Georgetown University and Juris Doctor (J.D.) from theUniversity of Pennsylvania Law School.  Zulfiqar has spent over 11 years residing inthe Middle East, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa and is proficient in 5 languages including Arabic, Urdu and Farsi.

Class, June 2009

MD Muslims celebrate ‘Eid at Six Flags

ICNA organized a national Muslim day at amusement parks, participated in by several thousand Muslims at six different parks, with halal food, prayer tents, and naats broadcast over the PA speakers. Following is the account of one such event:

UPPER MARLBRO, MD–For the first time, Maryland Muslims were able to reserve the Six Flags in Upper Marlbro for exclusive use. To make the experience even more interesting the day coincided with Eid ul Fitr.

The day, designated Muslim Family Day 2009, featured a bazaar with local vendors and a prayer pavilion and halal food.

“The purpose is to gather Muslims in one place for some good, clean, Islamic fun,” said volunteer organizer Salman Sheikh. “It will bring communities together and you usually you don’t get that chance, so it’s great for the kids.”

New York: Halal food vendor fight

NEW YORK–Halal food business is a lucrative one and the competition can be cut throat. The demand being not only limited to Muslim consumers but also to people of other faith. While the opportunities are vast so is the potential for the competition to get ugly.

The New York Post reported last week that a dispute over sharing territory between two halal hot dog vendors in New York resulted in a slashing of a arm. The story as reported by NBC goes like this”

Walid Osman sold hot dogs out of his cart outside Kings County Hospital until sometime in August; then he thought it would be wise to add chicken to his offerings, reports The New York Post.

Mohamed Hanafi and Abdelrao Akl Hamdy, who had always sold poultry out of the cart on the same corner – Clarkson and E. 37th Street – were miffed that Osman, 32, was luring away their customers with the scent of succulent chicken.

So they did what any New Yorker would do – they relocated their cart right next to Osman’s and slashed their prices in half, reports the Post.

The simmering food fight boiled over on Wednesday, when Hamdy and one of his workers, Farajat Yehiak, allegedly took a butcher knife to Osman’s arm, reports the Post.

The two foodies were charged with assault, menacing and criminal possession of a weapon, and were released without bail after arraignment in Brooklyn court, according to the paper.

Osman, an Egyptian immigrant with two daughters, was treated at the scene for non life-threatening injuries, reports the Post. But that may not be the last he hears from Hanafi.

“He said, ‘If you don’t move your cart to another area, I will kill you,’” Osman told the Post. “He wants to kill my business. I have kids and a family.”

The alleged menacing won’t keep Osman from doing what he has to do to provide for his family, however; he plans to be back at his cart today, reports the Post.

Hanafi argues that Osman is to blame for the feud. The vendor says Osman used to work for him and signed a non-compete agreement of sorts – promising not to manage a chicken cart – and alleged Osman slashed himself and he had nothing to do with it, reports the Post.

The above incident is unfortunate. There is enough room for all to grow in the Halal market. Instead of feuding over territories the halal vendors of New York should venture out for new areas. They should also honor their contracts and respect the rights of others.

Buffalo Muslim women to hold seminar on domestic violence

BUFFALO, NY–Muslim women leaders of Buffalo area are holding a seminar to provide a deeper understanding of the roles and rights of Muslim women.

The event to be held on Sunday September 27, will feature presentations by some of the most accomplished Muslim women in the United States.

The first annual seminar, “Wives of the Prophet Muhammad (s),” will be held on Sunday, September 27, from 1:00 PM until 4:00 PM at the Millennium Hotel in Cheektowaga. It’s free, but reservations are requested. To register or for more information contact Tahmina Rehman by email at tahminarehman@yahoo.com

NHK Labs, Inc. Recertified ISO 9001

NHK Laboratories, Inc. announced that it has been recertified ISO 9001:2008 by NSF International Strategic Registrations. The ISO 9001:2008 standard is an internationally recognized quality management system. The certification process required a multi-day independent audit of the company’s facilities, personnel, and procedures.

M. Amirul Karim, Chief Executive Officer of NHK Laboratories, Inc. said, “Our continued compliance with the ISO 9000 guidelines is a testament to our commitment to an internationally recognized quality management system.”  Mr. Karim added, “Our private label clients can be rest assured that we have super-adequate procedures and protocols in place designed to manufacture quality into the product, instead of solely relying on post-production testing.”

NHK Laboratories, Inc. is an NPA/NSF/FDA CGMP, ISO 9001:2008, CCOF & QAI Organic, and ISNA Halal certified custom formulator, contract manufacturer, and contract packager of private label dietary supplements, functional foods, and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals.  Established in 1987, the company operates two state-of-the-art facilities in Santa Fe Springs, California on more than 90,000 square-fee and also has an office in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

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Ramadan Drumroll

September 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Kirk Semple

ramadan1_600

A few hours before dawn, when most New Yorkers are fast asleep, a middle-aged man rolls out of bed in Brooklyn, dons a billowy red outfit and matching turban, climbs into his Lincoln Town Car, drives 15 minutes, pulls out a big drum and — there on the sidewalk of a residential neighborhood — starts to play.

Mohammad Boota plays in 20-second bursts outside Pakistani businesses in Brooklyn, as he did at Bismillah Food last month. He has learned that not everyone appreciates his services.

The man, Mohammad Boota, is a Ramadan drummer. Every morning during the holy month, which ends on Sept. 21, drummers stroll the streets of Muslim communities around the world, waking worshipers so they can eat a meal before the day’s fasting begins.

But New York City, renowned for welcoming all manner of cultural traditions, has limits to its hospitality. And so Mr. Boota, a Pakistani immigrant, has spent the past several years learning uncomfortable lessons about noise-complaint hot lines, American profanity and the particular crankiness of non-Muslims rousted from sleep at 3:30 a.m.

“Everywhere they complain,” he said. “People go, like, ‘What the hell? What you doing, man?’ They never know it’s Ramadan.”

Mr. Boota, 53, who immigrated in 1992 and earns his living as a limousine driver, began waking Brooklynites in 2002. At first he moved freely around the borough, picking a neighborhood to work each Ramadan morning.

Not everyone was thrilled, he said. People would throw open their windows and yell at him, or call the police, who, he said, advised him kindly to move along.

As the years went by, he and his barrel drum were effectively banned from one neighborhood after another. He now restricts himself to a short stretch of Coney Island Avenue where many Pakistanis live.

Fearing that even that limited turf may be threatened real estate for him, he has modified his approach even further — playing at well below his customary volume, for only about 15 to 20 seconds in each location, and only once every three or four days.

The complaints have stopped, he said. But as he reflected on his early years of drumming in the streets of New York — before he knew better — wistfulness seeped into his voice. He rattled off the places he used to play, however briefly: “Avenue C, Newkirk Avenue, Ditmas, Foster, Avenue H, I, J and Neptune Avenue.”

“You know,” he reluctantly concluded, “in the United States you can’t do anything without a permit.”

Mr. Boota wants to be a good American, and a good Muslim. “I don’t want to bother other communities’ people,” he said. “Just the Pakistani people.”

Several prominent Muslim organizations in New York said they knew of no other drummers who played on Ramadan mornings. But while the custom’s usefulness has been largely eclipsed by the invention of the alarm clock, it has hung on in many places. Indeed, Mr. Boota said he continues the practice, in spite of the challenges and resistance, as much to keep a tradition alive as to feed a cultural yen of his countrymen.
“They’re waiting for me,” he said.

The daily Ramadan fast runs from the start of dawn to dusk. So shortly after 3 one recent morning, Mr. Boota left his wife, Mumtaz, as she prepared a predawn meal in their Coney Island apartment. About 15 minutes later he pulled his Lincoln to a stop in front of Bismillah Food, a small Pakistani grocery store on Coney Island Avenue, near Foster Avenue. Several men were inside; taxicabs parked outside suggested their occupation.

In one fluid motion, Mr. Boota popped the trunk, cut the motor, leapt out, hoisted the drum’s strap over his shoulder, greeted the owner — “Salaam aleikum” — and, standing in the sidewalk penumbra of the shop’s fluorescent light, began playing.

The men came to the door. “He’s a very popular man here,” one of them said, nodding at Mr. Boota, who wore his usual performance attire: a traditional shalwar kameez, a loose two-piece outfit, elaborately embroidered with gold thread.

Mr. Boota wielded his two drumsticks in a galloping clangor that echoed off the facades of the darkened buildings.

After about 20 seconds, he ended his performance with a punctuative smack of the taut drum heads. There was an exchange of mumbled pleasantries in Arabic, the men moved back inside the store, and as quickly as he had arrived, Mr. Boota was behind the wheel of his car again, driving a block south to another Pakistani-owned business.

“It’s a great noise,” he said.

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9/11 Investigation Referendum on NY Ballot: 30,000 Signature Petition Achieves Aim

September 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Reuters

NEW YORK, Sept. 10–In a last minute decision, lawyers for the City of New York conceded that the New York City Coalition for Accountability Now (NYC CAN), a group comprising 9/11 family members, first responders and survivors, indeed did submit over 30,000 valid signatures to put the referendum for a new 9/11 investigation before the voters of New York City this November.

In an earlier letter from the City Clerk dated July 24, 2009, the City had claimed too few valid signatures had been on the petition.

Asked whether he thought NYC CAN could overcome the City’s challenge to the legality of the petition, legal counsel to the petitioners, Dennis McMahon, said, “Absolutely. Although the City has an incredibly successful record of shooting down ballot initiatives, we will be arguing from a fresh perspective that reflects the unprecedented events of 9/11. We believe the courts will see how critical an issue this is, and be persuaded with our legal reasoning and point of view.” A final determination on the legality of the petition will be reached in time for the referendum to be included on the November ballot should the petitioners prevail.

Representatives for NYC CAN, 9/11 family member Manny Badillo and Executive Director Ted Walter, arrived at the Board of Elections on the morning of Wednesday, September 9, to assist the court-appointed referee in commencing a line-by-line review of the disputed signatures, only to learn the referee’s review had been called off due to a last minute concession by the City. Mr. Badillo immediately got on the phone to inform others of the news.

“The City conceded we have 30,000 valid signatures. Big victory.”

The City’s concession comes as a result of the immense effort put forth by 50+ volunteers who gave more than 1,000 hours over a two week period from August 10 to August 25 to identify a total of 7,166 signatures that were wrongly invalidated by the NYC City Clerk and Board of Elections. On August 27, NYC CAN filed the 631-page Bill of Particulars cataloguing each of the 7,166 signatures it contended were in fact valid. NYC CAN submitted another 28,000 signatures on September 4 to guarantee the referendum will go on the ballot if they win the court case, bringing the total signatures submitted to 80,000.

NYC CAN must deliver its memorandum of law in response to the City’s motion for summary judgment by Monday, September 21. The City will be given an opportunity to reply before the referee’s decision is made on Monday, September 28. Fast-track appeals will likely follow no matter who wins. A final decision will have to be made by September 30.

If the referendum passes in November, it would lead to the creation of a local, independent commission with subpoena power that would be tasked with comprehensively reinvestigating the attacks.

For more info: http://www.nyccan.org.

Community News (V11-I38)

September 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Muslims least likely to report discrimination

NEW YORK– Despite fears that Muslims in the United States may be unfairly targeted or harassed because fears about terrorism, a new survey by Public Agenda finds Muslim immigrants are less likely than other immigrant populations to say there’s discrimination against immigrants in the United States, no more likely to encounter it personally, and overwhelmingly more likely to say the United States will be their permanent home.

The report released this week  by the nonpartisan nonprofit research organization, Public Agenda, follows up on a groundbreaking 2002 survey and tracks immigrants’ shifting attitudes during a tumultuous period.  Conducted in May 2009, and funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, “A Place to Call Home: What Immigrants Say Now About Their Life in America,” utilized landline and cellular telephones along with oversamples to provide the widest perspective possible from more than 1,100 foreign-born adults overall, and including over 100 Muslims.  Of those surveyed, 3 out of 4 Muslims immigrated in 2000 or before.

Some 63 percent of Muslim immigrants say there is no (or only a little) discrimination against immigrants in general in the United States, compared with 32 percent of other immigrants. In addition, Muslim immigrants report encountering discrimination personally at about the same rate as other immigrants, with 27 percent saying they’ve experienced “some” or a “great deal” of discrimination personally compared with 26 percent of all other immigrants.

An overwhelming 92 percent of Muslims say the United States will be their permanent home, (compared with 69 percent among other immigrants).  Sixty-one percent of Muslims report that they’re “extremely happy” in the United States (compared with only 33 percent of other immigrants).  Muslims are more likely to give the U.S. better ratings than their birth country on key questions, such as having a free and independent media (79 percent say the United States does a better job, compared with 54 percent of other immigrants).

Salim Ejaz running for NYC Comptroller

Pakistani-American accounting professional Salim Ejaz is contesting the NYC Democratic Primary on Sept 15 to become eligible to run for the Office of Comptroller.

Salim Ejaz is the only Democrat candidate for the Comptroller’s position who is a professional Certified Public Accountant (CPA) who has worked for more than a decade with the State of New York as Director Audit.

With 40 years of financial expertise, including 12 years as Director of Audit of Nassau County in the State of New York, a multi-billion dollar governmental entity, his performance record is stellar, having exposed waste and losses generating savings which exceed $ 500 million through his audit reports and recommendations.

The NYC Comptroller oversees a budget of $ 60 billion and is also responsible for pension funds of $ 120 billion. In these financial turbulent times, it is imperative that the Comptroller, the City’s fiscal watchdog, has the right professional qualification and experience and a demonstrated record of achievement, says his press release.

His agenda is what every taxpayer wants: eliminate wasteful spending, lower taxes and achieve job growth, the PR adds.

OCU celebrates diversity with Islam Day

EDMOND,OK–Oklahoma City University hosted Islam Day Sept. 10 to encourage cultural diversity with various campus activities, including a charity fundraiser called “iFast.”

Political science professor and Middle East expert Mohamed Daadaoui organized a list of activities for students and faculty in order to foster cross-cultural dialogue and to spread awareness about the world’s second largest religion.

Daadaoui established iFast, an aspect of Islam Day when students, faculty and staff are encouraged to donate money to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.

“Instead of spending money on lunch, donors will be contributing toward meals for the hungry,” he said, noting that Muslim followers are encouraged to donate to charitable causes during Ramadan.

“There are many misconceptions and stereotypical views about Islam,” Daadaoui said. “If we can show students and the OCU community what it means to be a Muslim, hopefully it will be a step in the direction of furthering goodwill and understanding.”

Community organizations such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Institute of Interfaith Dialogue and the Governor’s Ethnic American Advisory Council have partnered with OCU for some of the activities.

Daadaoui organized lectures and interfaith panel discussions with community leaders including Razi Hashmi of the Oklahoma Council on American-Islamic Relations; Imad Enchassi, Imam of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City and Rabbi Abbey Jacobson of the Emanuel Synagogue in Oklahoma City.

“Islam Day is about people of all faiths communicating and learning about the cultures of others,” he said.

Free halal meals at Wayne State U.

DETROIT–The Pakistani Student Association is offering all Wayne State University is offering free halal meals as part of the observance for the month of Ramadan. The ‘cultural dinner’ is intended to create awareness about Islamic beliefs and practices.

PSA President Harris Khan told the South End News, ‘We are hoping to create a bridge between the PSA and other Wayne State students.’

The event has been called “From Fast to Feast’” and took a month of planning to organize.

Interfaith vigil supports Obama plan

BINGHAMPTON, NY–An interfaith vigil was held in Binghampton supporting President Obama’s healthcare reforms. It was attended by people of all faiths.

“It’s not for one group or another group.

This is for all of us, all together, the children of God on the face of the Earth,” said Muslim Speaker Kasim Kopuz.

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Houstonian Corner (V11-I36)

August 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Qari Sharafat Ali & Hafiz Amjad Saeed Coming To Pak Center On 9/6/09

“Helping Hand For Relief And Development (HHRD)” is organizing an Iftar-&-Dinner and Special Isha-&-Taraweeh Prayers at Pakistan Center on Sunday, September 06, 2009 (next day is national holiday). Program is open to public, but organizers have requested that if people can RSVP by calling 1-832-275-0786 or 1-214-707-8159, it will make life easier for them, as then they can appropriately arrange for food and other things.

HHRD is cordially inviting the community members, their families and friends to their Annual Ramadan Iftar-&-Dinner and Special Isha-&-Taraweeh Prayers Program, to be held on Sunday, September 06th, 2009 @ 6:00pm. at the Pakistan Center located at 12600 Bissonnet (at South Dairy Ashford), Houston, Texas 77099. They have invited famous Qari Sharafat Ali from New York and Hafiz Amjad Saeed from Atlanta, who will InshaAllah enthrall everyone.

Helping Hand is requesting everyone to bring one or more Non-Perishable Food Items, which will be given to those in Need in our Houston Community.

Before Iftar-Mughrib-Prayers-&-Dinner, Community Youth and Qari Sharafat Ali will present heart-warming recitation of Quran; some Nasheeds & a Motivational Presentation about Helping Hand will be done.

After Iftar-Mughrib-Prayers-&-Dinner, arrangements have been made for Special Isha-&-Taraweeh Prayers at the same place Pakistan Center.

After the Special Isha-&-Taraweeh Prayers around 11:00pm., inspirational presentations by Islamic Scholars (to be determined) will be made on various subjects of public interest.

Again for more information and to RSVP for this inspirational event, one can call 1-832-275-0786 or 1-214-707-8159.

Healthcare System Can Bankrupt USA: US Rep. Al Green

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         “If not reformed, the present healthcare system will bankrupt USA,” informed Congressman AL Green (D-TX) at a Press Conference in his Houston Congressional Office.

“Nationwide, health care costs consume about 20 percent of our gross domestic product. If we continue on our current path, health care costs will consume approximately 35 percent of our GDP by 2040, and the number of uninsured Americans will rise to 72 million, according to the Council of Economic Advisers. That would have catastrophic consequences:” Added the Hon. Al Green.

Congressman AL Green said he favors the Health Reforms suggested by President Obama, where if one does not health insurance, he or she will have a choice of high-quality, affordable coverage for themselves and their families – coverage that will stay with them whether you move, change your job or lose your job. Secondly we will cut hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and inefficiency in federal health programs like Medicare and Medicaid and in unwarranted subsidies to insurance companies that do nothing to improve care and everything to improve their profits. Thirdly, by making Medicare more efficient, we’ll be able to ensure that more tax dollars go directly to caring for seniors instead of enriching insurance companies. Lastly, these reforms will provide every American with some basic consumer protections that will finally hold insurance companies accountable.

Even though we spend more than any other nation on health care, we aren’t healthier. Only three developed countries have higher infant mortality rates. Our nation ranks 24th in life expectancy among developed countries. More than one-third of Americans are obese.

These statistics are the signs of a system that is both unacceptable and unsustainable. They also show us the high cost of doing nothing. If we choose the status quo, more Americans will be uninsured, costs will continue to rise, and every American’s health care will be at risk.

For more information, one can contact the Office of Congressman AL Green at: 3003 South Loop West, Ste. 460, Houston, Texas 77054; Phone: 713-383-9234.

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Houstonian Corner V11-I35

August 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Pakistan Center Annual Dinner: Councilman M J Khan Given Bombaywala And Mian “Life Time Achievement Awards”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         “I am happy to be here in Pakistan Center and want to congratulate the whole community that now we all have a home of our own”: These were the sentiments of the City of Houston Councilman M. J. Khan, as he handed out the highest award given by the Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston (PAGH), “The Life Time Achievement Award”, to Former President Ghulam Mohammad Bombaywala and Mian Shabbir. All this happened during the annual dinner of PAGH on Friday, August 14th, 2009, which was attended by Consul General of Pakistan Aqil Nadeem, several Elected and Governmental Officials from the Homeland Security Department.

By the Grace of God, Pakistan Center is a huge place located in City of Houston District “F”, from where Masrur Javed Khan (past President of PAGH) got elected as the first Pakistani and Muslim City Councilman of Houston, but this past Friday was the first time M. J. came to this Center and everyone was most happy to see him and hoped this is not the only time.

Pakistan Center is the first of its kind in North America, was build in an old HEB Store, through the efforts done by the previous President of PAGH Ghulam Mohammad Bombayawala and his team. The huge Pakistan Center has several shops at the front end and huge party hall at the back, from where rental money is received, making the center self-sustaining. Center has nice offices, meeting rooms and library build for the administration of PAGH.

President of PAGH Khalid Khan had to leave for Pakistan to attend the 14th of August ceremonies over there being the Vice President of Peoples’ Party North America, but his wife and daughters filled up his spot pretty well by handing out flower bouquets to M. J. Khan and Mrs. Bombaywala.

Large numbers of attendees were entertained by famous comedians from Pakistan Kashif Khan and Pervez Siddiqui. Many people were listening to them for the first time and their jokes and presentation were quite fresh and most hilarious for everyone.

For more information on ongoing programs and projects for the community by PAGH, once can call 281-933-0786.

Bill King the Grand Marshall of the 1st Pakistan Day Parade in Downtown Houston

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Hundreds of Pakistanis and their friends from other communities gathered in Downtown Houston for the historic first ever “Pakistan Day Parade Houston”, which was held on Sunday, August 16th, 2009.

It is said that inaugural Pakistan Day Parade in USA was held in New York, which was attended by around 100 persons. But this inaugural Houston parade saw seas of human beings coming together to fervently celebrate the day.

People from other cities and States had also come for the Parade. Some people like Dr. Aziz Siddiqi came on their open cars with their names and message of Pakistan Independence Day written on their vehicles. Several Pakistani students from University of Houston and Houston Community College System had their separate floats and vehicles with Pakistani Flags and paling traditional music of various areas of Pakistan. All these Youth were organized by social figures like Mariam Issa and Dr. Birjees Ashraf.

Former Mayor of Kemah Texas Bill King was the Grand Marshall of this first ever Pakistan Day Parade in Houston, as he led several hundred enthusiastic Youth from the Houston Community College System and the University of Houston. Accompanying them were the Founding Members Khalid Mahmood (Chairman) & Nadeem Naik (Secretary); and the Consul General of Pakistan Honorable Aqil Nadeem & City Councilman M. J. Khan.

Later on at the stairs of Tranquility Park, where the parade culminated, having started at 400 Rusk Street and went around Rusk, Milam and Walker; the national anthems of Pakistan and USA were presented and several speakers made enthusiastic speeches. They included Bill King, City Councilpersons M. J. Khan and Jolanda Jones, Consul General Aqil Nadeem, Islamic Society President Dr. Aziz Siddiqi, Khalid Mahmood, Nadeem Naik, Mariam Issa, Dr. Birjees Ashraf and others. Stage Programs were coordinated by Saleem and Zara Syed of Young Trang; Rehan Siddiqui of Hum Tum City Radio and Moin Pirzada of Radio Perdes.

Following the parade, speeches and recognition of sponsors like Mega Energy, a concert; lots of food; intermingling of families, friends & colleagues and Pakistanis and Non-Pakistanis happened.

The next parade will be held in Houston on March 28th, 2010. For more information, one can call 832-876-2392; or visit http://PakistanDayParadeHouston.com

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Life in Gaza… and the Peace Process

August 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

New York City–August 12th–It is hard for the Muslim to realize that Jews are not the enemy for the atrocities within our mutual Holy Land, rather the perverted doctrine of Zionism is the culprit.

I was fortunate to be on a conference call with Mitchell Plitnick, the Director of the U.S. Office of B’Tselem, the Israeli Information for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.  This independent Israeli Information Center documents abuses under their law, and has been able to make a difference legally and in the sight of public opinion.

This call was sponsored by Churches for Middle East Peace to examine the conditions on the ground especially in Gaza and how it impacts the larger peace prospects.

Mitchell Plitnick, the Director of the American Office of B’Tselem: the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories–is a highly respected analyst.  He was born into an Orthodox Jewish family here in New York, and was educated in a Yeshiva (much like an Islamic Madrassa).   Strangely, he had grown up in an extremist Jewish environment, and during his earlier career supported the Settler Movement until he began to question the status quo.
Plitnick’s B’Tselem attempts to guarantee rights within the Occupied Teritories. 

Yet Gaza itself, which is no longer under law “an Occupied Territory” although Israel still holds responsibility for it under International law due to its brutal blockade — has not changed since the War.  Historically, the Strip has been a dependent district for centuries – Turks, Egyptians, British Israelis et al.  At the moment it is legally beholden to Tel Aviv for supplies which responsibility the IDF (Israel Defense Force) has been ignoring.

There has been no post-War reconstruction of Gaza City and its hinterlands due to the blockade.  Besides, little food or medicine is permitted by the Egyptian and Israeli Commands.

This blockade cannot be justified for Israeli security.  “Gazan human rights cannot be bargained away for Israeli security!” The conditions are desperate!  It is in Israel not Hamas’ hands while the United States has not moved forward along the lines of our new Executive‘s rhetoric.  The situation in Gaza has remained static since Hamas’ 2006 election.  Israel’s raison d’être for the Blockade was to force the Palestinian Arabs to suffer and to overthrow Hamas.  Well, “Collective punishment is illegal!”  Plitnick, further, stated that “The condition on the ground can’t be argued morally or legally.  The International community should add the suffering of the people” into the equation!

On the other side of the struggle, “Most [Israelis] thought Operation Cast Lead [the Gaza War] was not a success… [for its] objectives were not met.”  Most of the post-conflict coverage center on how the War was conducted.  Gaza’s economy has been decimated by the Operation.  The anger in Gaza, of course, is not against their government, but the Jews and Egyptians.  There is a good chance that Hamas could carry the upcoming elections, too, on the West Bank.

The Egyptians are, further, fearful of the Hamas government because of their close relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood, the second largest party in Cairo’s Parliament.  Furthermore, Alexandria does not wish to see refugees overflowing from the Rafah boundaries where there was a revolt of a sub-sect two weeks ago who wished to spread an even more stringent form of Islam over the whole of Palestine than the Islamist Hamas.  Although, at the same time, Egyptian businessmen feel they may be able to wrench the wretched electrical blockage away from the Israelis and to supply the Gazans to Egypt’s economic advantage. 

WHO (the World Health Organization) et al. has declared that medical supplies are grossly inadequate.  The Israeli Branch of Physicians for Human Rights has been able to provide the bulk of medical relief in Gaza itself and, also, to much of the Occupied Territories.  

To a question, Mr. Plitnick replied that Hamas would have a hard time to deny elections now although their relations are still confrontational with Fatah.  Hamas is in firm control of their miniscule republic although the human rights situation is less than optimal (human rights can only arise and thrive in situations where there is political stability with no outside threat bearing down on the “commonwealth”).  Yet their citizens overwhelmingly support their administration.  Still, on the other hand, Gaza City is desperately attempting to discover an open door to the Obama Presidency.

The issue of the Israeli Cabinent’s demand for the one missing Israeli soldier is a question of one to thousands of Palestinian prisoners.  The Palestinians on the West Bank are desirous for change, too, while back in Gaza, none of President Obama’s promises have come to fruition.  In both areas, there has only been the ebb and flow of violence:  In Occupation this is a constant! 

Plitinck acknowledged that Iran was a major International supplier to Hamas for the Farsis own propagandistic purposes –  to demonstrate their unwavering support of Palestine to the Islamic world, but Hamas itself is not an extension of Tehran’s foreign policy agenda.  If Persia and Gaza’s ties were severed, the modern Philistines could and would find alternative aid and support.  The regime in Gaza City is a Palestinian National Movement!

Speaking on the politics of his own country, Mitchell Plitnick stated that the sectarian (Foreign Minister) Lieberman, who is now under investigation for corruption, is one of the worst disasters to overtake his nation’s body politic.  Although our human rights NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) Director stated that he (Lieberman) was not listened to within the Cabinet, he represented a severe tilt towards the right in Tel Aviv, and that is why U.S. pressure must be applied to the government there.  American Jews are much more liberal than Israeli officialdom as a whole, he argued; and, thus must let their voices be heard in American-Israeli debates while taking into account Israel’s legitimate security concerns.  (One of the problems in Israel’s Commonweal is that they over accentuate their security requirements over what is reasonable.) 

For instance, building materials should be permitted into Gaza; so, the Strip can be reconstructed!  

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Community News (V11-I34)

August 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Islamic Summer Fest held in Delaware

WILMINGTON, DE–The first Islamic Summer Festival was held in Ogletown, Delaware. The event had a number of sports, rides, games, food and other activities. It was held in the parking lot of Masjid Ibrahim.

Proceeds from the event will help the Islamic Society of Delaware build a private school that will be open to all, not just students who practice Islam, organizers said.

“We wanted to open up our place of worship to people of all religions. We are trying to become more integrated into the community,” said Vaqar Sharief, president of the Islamic Society of Delaware. Sharief said the group wanted to send a message to the community that Muslims are good neighbors who welcome all. Another goal is to help people coming from other countries to the Delaware area get acclimated.

“This is a way to help you develop faster when you come, so you won’t become isolated,” Sharief said. “Unity is a big deal.”

NYPD reaches out to Muslims for Ramadan

NEW YORK,NY–In an annual pre-Ramadan meeting, city police officers, religious leaders and community members gathered Monday to discuss steps to ensure a safe holiday.

The NYPD says more foot patrols, special patrol cars, increased presence at mosques and greater communication with the Muslim community will all be in place.
“Across the police department we continue our work to familiarize all our police officers with the Islamic faith,” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said. “We do this with the help of special training videos to mosques and meetings such as this one.”

“Commissioner Kelly did a good job to keep it a tradition, a relationship between the police department and the Muslim community,” said Ahmed Jamil of the Muslim American Society of Queens. “We encourage this. And it has to be developed a little bit more. But it’s a good start.”

Kelly also eased concerns of profiling saying they are not monitoring any communities, including Muslim communities.

Fl religious leaders urge action on health reform

ORLANDO, FL– An Imam in Central Florida joined Christian priests and a Rabbi in urging the government to make affordable health care for all families in the country. Imam Muhammad Musri of the Islamic Society, Bishop Thomas Wenski, Rabbi Gary Perras, and Rev. Priscilla Robinson issued a joint statement urging the same.

“In Islam we are told all human life is precious and equal, therefore it is time for our nation to realize this fundamental right for all of it’s citizens,” Imam Musri said.

To further promote their agenda the faith leaders will gather on August 20 for a health care forum at Good Shepherd Catholic Church.

Airport chapel caters to all faiths

ATLANTA,GA–The chapel at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport now caters to a number of faiths including Islam. The 1,040 square foot chapel which recently underwent a renovation has doubled to its current size.

About 1,500 people per week visit the chapel, a fraction of the 250,000 people who pass through the world’s busiest airport each day.The chapel remains unadorned to maintain its interfaith feel.

Saginaw Township approves mosque

SAGINAW, MI–Saginaw Township Supervisor Tim Braun expects the Saginaw-based Islamic Center to be a good neighbor for the community once a 14,000 square foot plus mosque is completed, some time next year.  The Township board unanimously approved the proposed special use permit for the site on North Center north of McCarty near Tittabawassee.

Braun and other Township officials explained to the nearly 70 people in attendance at the board meeting that the Islamic Center met all zoning requirements. Islamic Center officials say the design will not include exterior loud speakers for the Azan.

Bronx Muslims targets of attacks

BRONX, NY–The West African Muslim community in Bronx is calling on authorities to seriously tackle a wave of hate crimes. There have been twenty such attacks on members of the community within the past one year. They are now seeking help from the NYPD and Housing Authority.

“We are calling everyone to come and help us to address these issues. And these are not things that will be accepted and tolerated,” Said Ebrahim Dawood Ndure of the African Action Network in an interview to the NY1 news channel.

Last week a community forum was held with members of NYPD, NYCHA, and District Attorney Robert Johnson in attendance.

Johnson said the authorities are seriously looking at the problem and the perpetrators will be prosecuted.

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Many Guantanamo Cases Referred to US Prosecutors

August 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Devlin Barrett 

Washington – Dozens of Guantanamo Bay detainee cases have been referred to federal prosecutors for possible criminal trials in the nation’s capital, Virginia and New York City, officials told The Associated Press on Monday as a second strategy for trying the detainees emerged within the Obama administration.

The Justice Department’s strategy of holding trials in East Coast cities could be a sharp departure from a Pentagon plan to hold all Guantanamo-related civilian and military trials in the Midwest.

The politically volatile decisions about where and how to try Guantanamo Bay detainees ultimately will rest with President Barack Obama as he tries to meet his self-imposed January deadline for closing the island prison.

Obama administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss internal deliberations, said Attorney General Eric Holder met privately last week with the chief federal prosecutor in each of the East Coast areas to discuss the preparations for possible indictments and trials in those districts.

Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller said the Guantanamo Bay detainee task force “has referred a significant number of cases for possible prosecution, and those cases have now been sent to U.S. Attorney offices who are reviewing them with prosecutors from the Office of Military Commissions.” His statement didn’t identify the districts involved.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said no final decisions have been made on where in the U.S. to transfer Guantanamo detainees.

One official said prosecutors and military lawyers are now reviewing the individual cases. The work is aimed at indicting individuals in civilian courts, but final decisions have not been made on the cases and some of the inmates whose cases were referred could still end up before military commissions instead.

Officials said the districts which have been referred Guantanamo cases are: Washington, D.C.; the Eastern District of Virginia, which has a courthouse in Alexandria, Va.; the Southern District of New York, which is based in lower Manhattan in New York City; and the Eastern District of New York, which is based in the New York borough of Brooklyn.

Each district has experience prosecuting high-profile terrorism cases, and each courthouse has high-security facilities for holding particularly dangerous inmates.
Yet the plan to hold terror trials in those cities may run afoul of a separate initiative being considered to build a courtroom-within-a-prison complex in the U.S. heartland.

Several senior U.S. officials said the administration is eyeing a soon-to-be-shuttered state maximum security prison in Michigan and the military penitentiary at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., as possible locations for a heavily guarded site to hold the suspected 229 al-Qaida, Taliban, and foreign fighters now jailed at Guantanamo.

The president has said some detainees will be tried in civilian courts, some in military commissions, and some will be held without trial because they are simply too dangerous but the evidence against them cannot be aired in any courtroom.

The proposed Midwest facility would operate as a hybrid prison system jointly operated by the Justice Department, the military and the Department of Homeland Security.

Both the Justice and Pentagon plans face legal and logistical problems.

If a significant number of civilian trials were to be held in the Midwest, the government might have to send in prosecutors and judges experienced in terrorism cases, and lawyers for the detainees could object to the jury pool.

Such a plan would also require an expensive upgrade of the facilities in Kansas or Michigan, and it’s unclear if there is enough time for such work under the president’s deadline.

But trying them on the East Coast could generate more of the kind of public opposition that led Congress earlier this year to yank funding for bringing such detainees to U.S. soil until the administration produces an acceptable plan for shuttering the Guantanamo facility.

The Obama administration has already transferred one detainee to U.S. courts – Ahmed Ghailani was sent to New York in June to face charges he helped blow up U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998.

Associated Press Writer Lara Jakes contributed to this report.

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The Terminal

August 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS) Middle East Correspondent

terminal Academy-Award winning actor Tom Hanks wowed audiences back in 2004 with his movie ‘The Terminal’. In the film he portrays Viktor Navorski, an eastern European immigrant coming to America so that he can fulfill a wish of his late father. But things take a turn for the worse as his homeland breaks out into a civil war and is no longer recognized by any government while he is en route. Not only is he stateless by the time he lands at New York’s JFK Airport, but he is also stuck in a political limbo which forces him to make the airport his new found home as he waits for the US government to either grant him entry or send him to another country to seek refuge as a political refugee. The film has innumerable funny moments as Hanks struggles to communicate his needs for money, food and clothing in his native language and broken English. It also has many heart rending ones as the audience is gripped by the plight of a stranger in a strange land.

For many Southeast Asian immigrants that descend upon the Middle East each year to work as laborers in some of the richest countries in the entire world, living in an airport terminal is often a reality that they have no choice but to accept as they embark upon a new phase in their lives to serve others as chauffeurs, office boys, janitors and housemaids.  In almost every Gulf State, there exists a sponsorship system, which states that no foreign immigrant can live independently within the country. All immigrants must have a citizen sponsor to vouch for them and co-sign on their residency documents. Herein is the problem . Out of the sponsorship laws has grown a new breed of criminals known as ‘visa traders’. They lure unsuspecting immigrants from agencies in their own homelands to the Gulf with the promise of a better life. The visa traders sell thousands of visas per years and it is a booming business.

Immigrants pay the traders thousands of dollars for their sponsorship that translates into a work visa. The moment the transaction begins and the cash changes hands, the immigrant is at the mercy of the sponsor. Many sponsors have developed the habit of leaving the new immigrants at the airport for days on end. They are either too busy or heartless to care. For this reason, many airports in the Gulf have developed special waiting areas specifically to cope with the influx of immigrants waiting to be picked up by their sponsors. The areas are well away from paying passengers view but are filled with human cargo simply left to wait. Men and women are mixed together often sprawled within close proximity as they try to sleep on the cold hard floors. Most immigrants only arrive with the clothes on their backs and not even a blanket to shield them from the central air conditioning that is pumped throughout the terminal around the clock. They have nowhere to shower and can only utilize the airport bathroom. As for nourishment, they are at the mercy of whatever the airport can provide.

maids It is common to see women crying and begging airport officials to simply go back home. Many of the immigrants do not know Arabic and yet the airport requires that they fill out processing paperwork in Arabic. While others make futile attempts to call the recruiting agencies that hired them or their individual sponsors. In most cases, the sponsors eventually do show up either several hours or several days after they were supposed to pick up their charges. The sponsors are not reprimanded by airport officials and suffer no ill consequences. Once again, the immigrants pay the price as they are not compensated for the wasted time and are usually forced straight to work without even a chance to rest after the long ordeal.

Many residents in the Gulf have long petitioned for an end to the sponsorship system. Nowhere have the voices been raised as loud as in the State of Kuwait, with even citizens publicly declaring shame that their own country would be a willing collaborator in the exploitation of others. This past month the Kuwaiti government has given hope to thousands by pushing for the annihilation of the sponsor system to curb visa trading and improve Kuwait’s standing on human rights in the global arena. The Kuwaiti government also promises to develop a new set of laws to deal with visa traders fiercely and decisively.  Other Gulf nations are expected to rethink their sponsorship systems as well so as to be seen as champions of human rights by the rest of the world and not exploiters bowing to the almighty dollar.

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Journalist Shane Bauer Detained in Iran

August 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Aaron Glantz, NAM

shane bauer

New America Media correspondent Shane Bauer is among three Americans detained over the weekend along the Iranian-Iraq border, along with his girlfriend Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal.

Bauer, 27, who grew up in Onamia, Minn, had filed more than two dozen stories for NAM from Syria and was in Northern Iraq to cover the Kurdish elections, said NAM Executive Editor Sandy Close.

“We were awaiting his coverage when we learned that he and his girlfriend, and another friend, had been arrested by Iranian authorities,” she said.

A freelance journalist and fluent Arabic speaker, Bauer has contributed to numerous other publications including the Nation, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Los Angeles Times.

“Shane’s dispatches have been enlightening,” Close said. “His fluency in Arabic and his writing and photography skills enabled him to provide a valuable lens into what ordinary people are thinking and saying in the Arab world. We consider Shane to be a gifted young correspondent who typifies the long tradition of journalism by the student-traveler learning the craft by doing.”

At Iran’s Mission to the United Nation’s in New York, spokesperson Mohammed Sahraei refused to elaborate on official state media reports which had referred to Bauer and his fellow travelers as “infiltrators.”

Iranian state television reported on Sunday that the head of the Iranian Parliament’s foreign policy committee Alaedddin Boroujerdi said, “This case is currently on its natural course.”

Their detention has quickly become international news.

On Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appealed to Iran for information, saying U.S. the interests in Iran are asking officials from the Iranian Foreign Ministry for details but have not yet gotten official confirmation of the trio’s arrest. She asked that Iran determine the facts of the case and to “return them as quickly as possible.”

“As of a few hours ago, we did not yet have official confirmation that the Iranian government or an instrument of the Iranian government were holding the three missing Americans,” Clinton told reporters at the State Department. “We asked our Swiss partners … to please pursue our inquiries to determine the status of the three missing Americans.”

“Obviously, we are concerned,” Clinton said. “We want this matter brought to a resolution as soon as possible and we call on the Iranian government to help us determine the whereabouts of the three missing Americans and return them as quickly as possible.”

In New York, the Committee to Protect Journalists said it appeared that the Americans were “targeted for being reporters” and that they were walking along the border because they were backpacking along the mountains that mark the border between Iran and Iraq, “for purely recreational purposes.”

“It’s possible that they walking back and forth the border numerous times without ever knowing it,” said CPJ’s Mohmmed Abdel Dayem. “We hope that it is a routine thing. We assume the best.”

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US-AFGHANISTAN: Group Seeks Probe of Mass Graves

July 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By William Fisher

2009-07-22T115607Z_01_SZH08_RTRMDNP_3_AFGHANISTAN

A U.S. soldier secures the area around a school, which will host a local election committee on the upcoming presidential election, in the village of Dadu-Khel in Logar Province in Afghanistan 7/22/09.  

REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

NEW YORK, Jul 17 (IPS) – A prominent human rights group is calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate why the administration of former President George W. Bush blocked three different probes into war crimes in Afghanistan where as many as 2,000 surrendered Taliban fighters were reportedly suffocated in container trucks and then buried in a mass grave by Afghan forces operating jointly with U.S. forces.

The Boston-based Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), which discovered the mass gravesite in 2002, has issued the call for the criminal probe. The organisation says U.S. government documents it has obtained show that the bodies were reportedly buried in mass graves in the Dasht-e-Leili desert near Sheberghan, Afghanistan.

It charges that Afghan warlord General Abdul Rashid Dostum, who it says was on the payroll of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), was responsible for the 2001 massacre at a prison run by the general’s forces near the town of Shibarghan.

“Physicians for Human Rights went to investigate inhumane conditions at a prison in northern Afghanistan, but what we found was much worse,” stated Susannah Sirkin, PHR’s deputy director.

“Our researchers documented an apparent mass grave site with reportedly thousands of bodies of captured prisoners who were suffocated to death in trucks. That was 2002; seven years later, we still seek answers about what exactly happened and who was involved,” she said.

PHR says senior Bush administration officials impeded investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the State and Defence departments, and apparently never conducted a full inquiry. The New York Times made the disclosure earlier this month in a story by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter James Risen.

Subsequently, President Barack Obama told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that he has directed his national security team to look into the alleged massacre. Obama said the government needs to find out whether actions by the U.S. contributed to possible war crimes.

“The Bush administration’s disregard for the rule of law and the Geneva Conventions led to torture of prisoners in Guantánamo and many other secret places,” noted Nathaniel Raymond, PHR’s lead researcher on Dasht-e-Leili.

“Contrary to the legal opinions of the previous Department of Justice, the principles of the Geneva Conventions are non-negotiable, as is their enforcement. President Obama must open a full and transparent criminal probe and prosecute any U.S. officials found to have broken the law,” he said.

“The State Department’s statement to the New York Times that suspected war crimes should be thoroughly investigated indicates a move towards full accountability,” added Raymond. “We stand ready to aid the U.S. government in investigating this massacre. It is time for the cover-up to end.”

PHR reiterated its call to the government of Afghanistan, which has jurisdiction over the alleged mass grave site, to secure the area with the assistance of ISAF (International Security Assistance Force-Afghanistan), protect witnesses to the initial incident and the ensuing tampering, and ensure a full investigation of remaining evidence at the site, including the tracing of the substantial amount of soil that appears to have been removed in 2006.

“Gravesites have been tampered with, evidence has been destroyed, and witnesses have been tortured and killed,” PHR said. “The Dasht-e-Leili mass gravesite must finally be secured, all surviving witnesses must be protected, and the government of Afghanistan, in coordination with the U.N. and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation), must at last allow a full investigation to go forward.”

PHR charged that U.S. officials have been reluctant to pursue an investigation – sought by officials from the FBI, the State Department, the Red Cross and human rights groups – because the warlord, Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, was on the payroll of the CIA and his militia worked closely with U.S. Special Forces in 2001.

The group said the United States also worried about undermining the U.S.-supported government of President Hamid Karzai, in which General Dostum had served as a defence official.

“At the White House, nobody said no to an investigation, but nobody ever said yes, either,” said Pierre Prosper, the former U.S. ambassador for war crimes issues. “The first reaction of everybody there was, ‘Oh, this is a sensitive issue; this is a touchy issue politically’.”

PHR’s Raymond, who is head of the organisation’s Campaign Against Torture, told IPS that President Obama’s statement was welcome.

But, he added, “The president’s rhetoric must be matched by urgent action. He needs to pressure President Karzai to secure the mass graves site, protect witnesses and make sure that U.S.-led military forces and the United Nations in Afghanistan protect all evidence of the crimes.”

The New York Times reported that the U.S. has put pressure on Afghan officials not to reappoint General Dostum reappointment as military chief of staff to the Afghan president.

General Dostum has previously claimed that any deaths of the Taliban prisoners were unintentional. He has said that only 200 prisoners died and blamed combat wounds and disease for most of the fatalities.

The first calls for an investigation came from PHR and the International Committee of the Red Cross. A military commander in the United States-led coalition rejected a request by a Red Cross official for an inquiry in late 2001, according to the official, who, in keeping with his organisation’s policy, would speak only on condition of anonymity and declined to identify the commander.

Subsequently, PHR asked the Defence Department to investigate the alleged massacre, but no action was taken. PHR says the prisoner deaths came up in a conversation with Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defence at the time, in early 2003.

“Somebody mentioned Dostum and the story about the containers and the possibility that this was a war crime. And Wolfowitz said we are not going to be going after him for that,” according to the group.

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World’s Youth Leaders Gather to Address the Challenges of Militarization, Nuclear Weapons and the Misuse of Religion

July 16, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Kathmandu_street
File:  A busy street in Kathmandu.

(Kathmandu, July 10, 2009)  The International Summit of Religious Youth Leaders on Disarmament for Shared Security was inaugurated by His Excellency the President, Dr. Ram Baran Yadav, in Kathmandu on 10 July 2009.  Organized by the World Conference of Religions for Peace, the world’s largest multi-religious organization accredited with the United Nations and headquartered in New York, the Summit brought together approximately 100 Nepali and 50 international religious and civil society leaders from 25 countries.[1]   Other prominent participants in the Summit included Mr. Kul C. Gautam, former UN Assistant Secretary-General and former Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF; Mr. Taijiro Kimura, Director, UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific; Rev. Kyoichi Sugino, Assistant Secretary General, the World Conference of Religions for Peace; and Ms. Stellamaris Mulaeh, International Coordinator, Religions for Peace Global Youth Network.

Globally nearly 1,000 people a day die from various kinds of weapons.  Military spending in 2008 reached a new high of $1.464 trillion, even as the global economy faltered and the majority of the world’s population continued to live in extreme poverty.   Four billion dollars worth of small arms are traded legally each year, while another $1 billion is traded illegally.  The world is confronted with proliferation of nuclear weapons, continued use of cluster munitions, landmines and other conventional weapons, rising military expenditures at the expense of development, and the misuse of religion in support of violence and war.

His Excellency Dr. Ram Baran Yadav, the President of Nepal, stated that “We need to harness the power of the world’s religions to counter violence with the message of peace, love and compassion, especially among the youth of our nations. I want to compliment the Religion and Peace Academy of Nepal (RAPAN) and the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP) for convening a very timely ‘International Summit of Religious Youth Leaders on Disarmament for Shared Security’ in Kathmandu.”

Mr. Tadatoshi Akiba, Mayor of Hiroshima, Japan, and president of Mayors for Peace, a global coalition of mayors from 2,926 cities in 134 countries and regions, stated in his message that “The possibility of proliferation and the use of nuclear weapons are growing, and the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is on the verge of collapse.  Mayors for Peace welcomes the possibility of working with the world’s religious communities and young people through the Religions for Peace global network to promote our 2020 Vision, a program to eliminate all nuclear weapons by the year 2020, the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” 

Mr. Kul Gautam, former UN Assistant Secretary-General and former Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF noted that “Youth are the soul of the society.  They are essential to transform culture of violence we are seeing at present to culture of peace, which is an intrinsic and inherent part of Nepali culture.  Based on my long association with Religions for Peace, I am confident that this conference will help advance a powerful campaign for peace and non-violence through multi-religious cooperation in Nepal and around the world.” He urged the World Conference of Religions for Peace to support a massive campaign to rollback violence in Nepal as a direct follow-up of this conference in Nepal, and consider similar campaigns in other post-conflict countries in the world.

Rev. Kyoichi Sugino, Assistant Secretary General of the World Conference of Religions for Peace, said, “This Summit intends to further unleash the positive socially transformative power of religion, underline the crucial role of young people in shaping our world, and highlight the added value of multi-religious cooperation and multi-stakeholder approach to disarmament for shared security, development and peace.”

Ms. Stellamaris Mulaeh, International Coordinator, Religions for Peace Global Youth Network said, “This Summit is a great opportunity for religious youth leaders to discuss major challenges to shared security and develop action plans.  Based upon these, Religions for Peace youth leaders from national, regional and global networks will launch a campaign on reducing military expenditures to advance shared security.”

[1] Afghanistan, Argentina, Cambodia, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, France, Georgia, Greece, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka and the US.  

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9 Israelis Suspected of Scamming Millions from U.S. Pensioners

July 16, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Yuval Goren, Haaretz Correspondent

The Tel Aviv police fraud squad arrested on Sunday nine Israelis on suspicion of netting millions of dollars from U.S. pensioners in a so-called Nigerian scam.

Police raided an office in the city, which is suspected to have been the nerve center of the dodgy enterprise. The defendants, all in their 20s and 30s, allegedly phoned American pensioners, told them they had won the lottery and asked them for a fee of several thousand dollars for the transfer of the prize money, which in fact never existed.

The investigation has been conducted in conjunction with U.S. law enforcement agencies.

Last week, it was reported that the American agencies had urged Israel Police to step up the extradition procedure of another ten Israelis who were suspected of scamming $2 million in similar means.

Most of the ten defendants in the advance-fee scam, which was unveiled by police last September, are in their early twenties, without a criminal record.

The first hearing in their extradition plea took place last week, after a New York law enforcement official said many of the victims are old and frail, and urged the Israeli police to bring the alleged offenders to imminent justice.

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US Consumers Fall Behind on Loans

July 9, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Soaring U.S. unemployment and a shrinking economy drove delinquencies on credit card debt and home equity loans to all-time highs in the first quarter as a record number of cash-strapped consumers fell behind on their bills.

Delinquencies on the value of all card debt soared to a record 6.60 percent from 5.52 percent in the fourth quarter as more cardholders relied on plastic to meet day-to-day expenses, the American Bankers Association said.

Late payments on home equity loans rose to 3.52 percent from 3.03 percent, and on home equity lines of credit climbed to 1.89 percent from 1.46 percent.

A broader gauge showing late payments on eight categories of loans rose for a fourth straight quarter to a new record, edging up to 3.23 percent from 3.22 percent. That rate actually understates consumer pain because it excludes credit cards. The ABA tracks loan payments that are at least 30 days late.

“The biggest driver is job losses,” ABA Chief Economist James Chessen said in an interview. “When people lose their jobs or work fewer hours, it makes it that much harder to meet their obligations. Unfortunately, we’re going to see higher job losses in the next year, and I expect elevated delinquencies.”

The ABA represents most large U.S. banks and credit card companies. Tuesday’s data are a bad sign for them as they prepare to report second-quarter results starting next week.

While improved capital markets may boost the bottom lines of some, analysts expect lenders such as Bank of America Corp, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Citigroup Inc, Capital One Financial Corp and American Express Co to suffer higher credit losses, especially in cards.

Borrowers are struggling as the nation’s jobless rate sits at a 26-year high of 9.5 percent, with 6.5 million jobs having disappeared since the recession began in December 2007. The Obama administration expects the unemployment rate to hit double digits before declining.

U.S. consumers ended March with $939.6 billion of revolving credit outstanding, a rough approximation of credit card debt, according to Federal Reserve data.

“Consumers tend to rely on credit cards as a bridge to cover their daily needs until they find new jobs,” Chessen said. “It’s taking longer to find those jobs.”

Meanwhile, home prices are down 32.6 percent from their peak in 2006, according to the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices of 20 large metropolitan areas.

The ABA in June said it expects the recession to end this quarter, despite rising unemployment.

The overall ABA delinquency rate includes direct auto, indirect auto, closed-end home equity, home improvement, marine, mobile home, personal, and recreational vehicle loans.

Delinquencies rose to 3.01 percent from 2.03 percent on direct auto loans, to 3.70 percent from 2.96 percent on mobile home loans, to 3.47 percent from 2.88 percent on personal loans, and to 1.52 percent from 1.38 percent on recreational vehicle loans.

They fell to 3.42 percent from 3.53 percent on auto loans made through dealers, to 2.04 percent from 2.35 percent on marine loans, and to 1.46 percent from 1.75 percent on property improvement loans.

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Community News (V11-I28)

July 2, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Top scientist receives grant to develop fast test to detect porcine fat

peggy hsieh TALLAHASSEE, June 29, 2009– Y-H. Peggy Hsieh, of Florida State University,  recently received a grant from Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo K. of Japan to develop a rapid method for the detection of porcine fat. The two-year grant provides $216,000 in research funds plus $40,000 in consulting fees.

Pork tissue is strictly prohibited in  Halal diets for religious reasons. Reliable methods for the detection of any porcine tissue, including muscle and fat, are of paramount importance to the practicing Muslim and Jewish populations. Hsieh has previously developed a rapid pork immunoassay which can sensitively detect any pork muscle in food and feed mixtures regardless of their processing conditions. This pork-specific assay was commercialized in 2000 and has been widely used internationally. However, detection of pork fat remains challenging due to the physiochemical nature of the fat. Currently available methods such as DNA based Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) techniques, gas and liquid chromatography, and near-infrared spectroscopy, all require sophisticated instruments coupled with complex data analysis procedures for interpreting results. Rapid field tests of pork or any other fat are non-existent.

Hsieh will search for a porcine-specific and thermal-stable biomarker in the porcine fat tissue and develop a rapid method for the detection of the biomarker in raw and processed pork fat. It is anticipated that after two years, she will deliver the very first field assay which can identify even small amounts of pork fat in a wide range of raw and processed materials without using expensive instrumentation. This type of assay will greatly benefit billions of people who try to avoid pork in their diet. Tanaka has signed an optional licensing agreement with FSU in the hopes of commercializing Hsieh’s end product upon completion of this project.

The Tanaka Kikinzoku Group is Japan’s leading precious metals company with a history of over one hundred and twenty years. Although best known internationally for its high specification industrial products, the group is also producer and trader of a variety of bullion and platinum group metals, coins and bars. The group is also active environmentally, and is one of the world’s largest recyclers of platinum group metals. Their newly established Medical Group, which is funding Hsieh’s research, is focused on developing various products through the use of precious metals to improve human health.

Protestors at mosque presented with roses

BOSTON, MA–The mosque complex of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center officially opened last Friday with more than 1800 worshippers in attendance. Mayor Thomas M. Menino, city councilors, and state lawmakers also attended the ceremony.

The mosque had faced a plethora of problems including financial woes and allegations that some of the speakers there had indulged in extreme rhetoric.

A handful of protestors stood across the street from the mosque holding placards led by a leading critic Charles Mosque. Local Muslims gave them white flowers as a gesture of peace. A few arguments ensued but the overall atmosphere was peaceful.

The Muslim leaders of the area hoped that the mosque will become a hub of interfaith programs.

Mayor Bloomberg says schools won’t close for Eid

NEW YORK,NY–Mayor Michael Bloomberg says New York City’s schools can’t close for Muslim holidays.

The City Council is considering a nonbinding resolution on Tuesday asking the Education Department to observe Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.

The city has the nation’s largest school system. A 2008 study by Columbia University’s Teachers College estimates at least 10 percent of its 1.1 million students are Muslim.

The resolution asks the Bloomberg administration to observe the holidays in schools and for the state to require it by amending education law.

The mayor says the city is so diverse schools can’t observe every holiday.

LAPD appoints first Muslim chaplain

LOS ANGELES, CA–In a bid to improve relations with Muslims, the Los Angeles Police Department has appointed its first Muslim chaplain.

Pakistan-born Sheik Qazi Asad, 47, will become a reserve chaplain at the North Hollywood station, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

“We need to establish very good communication … where both parties are talking to each other,” Asad told the Times. “This is just opening up the door.”

Asad, a U.S. citizen, has spent a decade working to improve relations between police and Muslims  in Los Angeles County.

The LAPD hopes he’ll strengthen relations that have suffered since the department tried to map the city’s Muslim population in 2007, the newspaper said. The department abandoned the plan after critics called it religious profiling.

Asad has served as a member of the sheriff’s Executive Clergy Council, on which he worked to build trust between Muslims and police.

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