Yalla Change Event

October 6, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

AAI and NNAAC coordinate leadership conference in Dearborn

By Adil James, TMO

PA010135Dearborn–October 1–The aftermath of 9/11 has been a trial for Arabs and for Muslims, but Arabs and Muslims have responded by stepping vigorously into the public arena and a reflection of that trend is this weekend’s “Yalla Change” leadership conference in Dearborn.

The event was co-sponsored by the Arab American Institute and the National Network for Arab American Communities and was attended by about 200 guests and speakers.  The event was held at the Doubletree Hotel in Dearborn.  Those in attendance appeared to be mostly professionals who had experience working as leaders in the Muslim and especially Arab communities, and it seemed as though the focus of the leadership conference was in building the capacity of the Arab community for involvement in the arena of public service.

Discussions that contributed to this capacity were a discussion by the “Center for Arab American Philanthropy,” “Maximizing Earned-Income Endeavors,” “Tapping Employee and Volunteer Motivation to Minimize Burnout,” “Telling Your Financial Story to Funders,” and “Innovative Practices for Nonprofits,” among others.  Each of these sessions was a full multi-hour discussion designed to increase the effectiveness of Arab organizations–the majority of the seminars at the event focused on this area.

A few of the sessions focused on broader issues, namely the red herring issue of anti-Shariah legislation and a presentation by Wajahat Ali on the coterie of anti-Islam zealots such as Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, who appeared recently on the national scene but who have garnered disproportionate influence in the wake of September 11th and have, amazingly, by the strength of only a few shrill voices, polarized the American climate in relation to Islam to attempt to deny Muslims even the peaceful enjoyment of good relations with their neighbors.

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Muslims Rising Above The Ashes Of Misunderstanding

September 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Kari Ansari

As the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 approaches, we’ll be inundated with reports and recollections of where people were at that moment, what they were doing and how their lives have been changed because of it.

This anniversary-keeping activity feels like we have a wound that we know has yet to heal, but we can’t stop ourselves from touching it — just to see if it still hurts.

It does.

The inevitable media coverage will build now until Sept. 12, when folks will try to get back to normal life still smarting from the big press blitz. Muslim Americans will have no choice but to be one of the featured main dishes in this media feasting frenzy, and we will do our part to help heal the wounds caused by those who falsely claimed our faith by telling you again that Islam had no part in this tragedy.

Over these last 10 years, the events of 9/11 taught my faith community that we had been neglecting outreach to the greater society. We’ve had to step away from the cultural comfort of our mosques, Islamic schools and homes to shake the hands of our neighbors who have been there all along, but with whom we may not have engaged with serious effort or effect. Ten years later, Muslims have made these gestures of friendship to the point that a large percentage of the folks who wanted to know us better, now do. There are others who simply refuse to let go of the bigotry and stereotyping of Muslims in America. You may know them: They have their eyes closed with their hands over their ears singing, “la, la, la. I don’t hear you.”

For the next 10 years, I am hopeful that our nation will leave these crooners of ignorance out of our society’s narrative. We’ve already seen some of Islam’s biggest haters recently outed for propagating bigotry under the guise of being “terrorism experts.” Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller have been exposed for their racist and bigoted craziness through a Norwegian mass murderer, Anders Behring Breivik, who referred to their hate-filled blogs and rhetoric many times in his insanely xenophobic manifesto. The Center for American Progress recently released a report, “Fear, Inc., The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America” that clearly outlines the organized machine operating a small empire of hatred. Besides Spencer and Geller, the report highlights major players like David Yerushalmi (recently featured in a New York Times article outlining his role in this smear campaign) and Fox News (a network owned by the now infamous News Corp and Rupert Murdoch). These people won’t stop their work in unfairly vilifying the American Muslim community, but really, how long can that leaky bucket of lies hold water?

It’s been a challenge to refute every slam and slur against Islam, but Muslims try to follow the example of the Blessed Prophet Muhammad (s), who persistently treated his neighbors with respect despite their derision.

America’s Muslims look forward to our faith community rising above these ashes of misunderstandings to find ourselves welcome as fellow citizens. To make this climb, we know our focus must stay on our youth.

There are thousands of young, dynamic American Muslims already creating change in our nation’s high schools, colleges and workplaces. Their parents have put heart and soul into raising these young people — especially within the difficult context of the last 10 years. They have been nurturing their kids with love and giving them confidence to be American and Muslim in the same sentence. We have great and lofty expectations of their futures, and these young people are not failing any of us.

Young Muslims are making advances in medicine, science and technology.

Look at the list of young doctors in any teaching hospital and you’ll see Muslim names galore. Most major corporations include a cadre of brilliant Muslim engineers. Beyond technology and medicine (traditionally the career paths of choice for Muslims in the U.S.), we are now seeing young Muslims choosing to pursue careers in the less lucrative, but necessary fields of public service, social services and education. And finally, we are seeing more and more Muslim names coming up in the arts and communications fields. This is a hopeful sign for the future, as public perceptions often change through the media in all its forms. Watch Musa Syeed, a writer and independent filmmaker to produce great movies and documentaries, as well as Qasim Bashir, who wrote and directed “Mooz-lum: The Movie.” There are thousands of upcoming Muslim journalists, writers, artists, photographers and performers that we will be sure to hear more from in the next 10 years.

I’m proud to claim these honest young people who are giving us honest portrayals of Muslims through the arts and media.

We now have young people studying to become Islamic scholars within the American context through the newly instituted Zaytuna College, whose mission is “to educate and prepare morally committed professional, intellectual, and spiritual leaders, who are grounded in the Islamic scholarly tradition and conversant with the cultural currents and critical ideas shaping modern society.” We look forward to the graduates of Zaytuna to actively lead and positively shape the American Muslim community for generations to come.

Young Muslims are the backbone of American-Muslim philanthropic efforts, and what they lack in financial resources, they are making up with their time and hard work. There isn’t a single charitable event that doesn’t depend on student volunteers for its success. Muslims Without Borders has taken this legacy one step further by forming a full-blown relief agency run solely by Muslim students.

I recently had a reporter ask me if it wasn’t too big of a burden for my kids to grow up as identifiable Muslims during these last 10 years.

It was a sincere question, but I wondered how else she thought I should have raised them. Later, I realized that there are some Muslim parents who have discouraged their children from expressing their faith in any way from fear of reprisal. Recently, my heart hurt for the young checker at the grocery store who told me in a wistful voice that she was “technically a Muslim,” but that her parents didn’t want her to practice the faith in case she’d suffer here as a new immigrant. I don’t know if that statement reflected more poorly on our society, or on her parents; however, for the most part, Muslim families in America are raising their children to be proud of their beliefs and are teaching them that God is infinitely Merciful and Gracious to those who struggle for His sake. These young people who are proud of their noble faith realize that despite some people’s innocent ignorance of Islam, or other’s outright bigotry, the majority of our neighbors and greater community will have respect for them as long as their character and behavior follow the example of the Blessed Prophet Muhammad (s). To put it plain and simple, we are raising these young people to trust in God and do good things with their lives.

Muslims in this country are looking forward to seeing an America that once again says we have had enough of hate and fear. We hope everyone will recognize that our country becomes more beautiful with each new color and creed we accept as our own.

Kari Ansari is a Writer and Co-Founder of America’s Muslim Family Magazine

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Pamela Geller, Unindicted Co-conspirator of the Oslo Massacre

September 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The $43 Million Islamophobia Machine

by Julianne Hing

Thursday, September 1 2011, 10:05 AM EST Tags: Muslim

Is President Obama a secret Muslim? Is Sharia law the radical scourge that’s threatening the very fabric of U.S. democracy? Contrary to the saying, a lie repeated often enough won’t make it true. But that doesn’t mean anti-Muslim activists, armed with millions of dollars of foundation support, won’t stop trying.

It turns out a handful of seven donors have given nearly $43 million over the last decade to fund a close network of right-wing intellectuals and scholars who’ve concocted and fanned Islamophobic hysteria to push an anti-Muslim political agenda.

According to “Fear Inc.,” a new report released by the Center for American Progress, those millions have gone to a coordinated network of anti-Muslim thought leaders: 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 at Jihad Watch and Stop Islamization of America and Steven Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

This network, with millions of dollars behind it, has moved an agenda that seeks to pit Islam against the West, that imagines Muslims as untrustworthy and dangerous, that has painted Muslims as a looming threat who are out to undermine American democracy and national security. And with the help of activists, right-wing bloggers and a platform from a more than obliging cable news system, these fringe ideas have become more and more mainstream.

“There is a coordinated, strategic, deliberate, interconnected agenda here, which has very detrimental effects on fellow Americans and our communities and which really poisons the well of civil discourse,” says Wajahat Ali, the lead author of the CAP report.

“We’re living in a post-9/11 environment so what the network does is very cynically exploits fear, hysteria and misinformation and ignorance for the sake of profit, and for the sake of pushing an anti-Muslim agenda under the guise of allegedly combating radical Islam and protecting our national security,” Ali said.

It’s in this post-9/11 climate that the most absurd statements have become commonplace in the mainstream political discourse.

“Arabic is not just another language like French or Italian, it is the spearhead of an ideological project that is deeply opposed to the United States,” Pam Geller wrote in February on her right-wing blog Atlas Shrugs. She is closely connected with David Horowitz, whose anti-Muslim group the David Horowitz Freedom Center has raked in $8.3 million in the last decade. Or, in the words of Bridgitte Gabriel: “[Muslims and Arabs] have no soul. They are dead set on killing and destruction.”

It’s the kind of extremist thought leadership that has paved the way for Rep. Peter King’s congressional hearings on the supposed Islamic radicalization of the country. They’re the authors whose anti-Muslim rants were cited dozens of times in the Oslo, Norway shooter Behring Breivik’s manifesto. These are the people who’ve singlehandedly brought anti-Sharia laws to over a dozen statehouses. They’re the machine that’s given rise to the idea that Obama might secretly be Muslim, and that were that true, it’d somehow be a terrible offense.

Ali says that the success of this messaging rests in part on the fact that 60 percent of Americans claim not to know any Muslim person, and so people rely for on mainstream media and the words of political leaders for information.

The anti-Muslim rhetoric firing across the airwaves and in congressional hearings has real-life impacts, too. It’s provided the political cover for a whole slew of policies that have targeted Muslim, Arab, Middle Eastern and South Asian communities. An AP investigation published last week uncovered a years long domestic surveillance program that the NYPD had undertaken to gather information on Muslim communities. The invasive surveillance measures meant that New York police had broad powers to monitor, harass and racially profile New York Muslims.

But the manufactured threat has been overblown, experts say. A 2010 study from Duke University found that the imagined threat of Muslim fundamentalists committing acts of terrorism was exaggerated. The study tracked 139 known radicalized Muslim-Americans who had attempted to carry out acts of terrorism or had been prosecuted in connection with suspected acts of terrorism—they are just a handful of the nation’s 2.6 million Muslims.*

“Muslim-American organizations and the vast majority of individuals that we interviewed firmly reject the radical extremist ideology that justifies the use of violence to achieve political ends,” David Schanzer, an associate professor at Duke and the director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, said in a statement at the report’s release.

And this week a new report from the Pew Research Center found that American Muslims are concerned about the exact same things everyone else is: they take national security seriously and are distrustful of extremism in many forms, even as they report being unfairly seen as suspect themselves. American Muslims overwhelmingly have both, Pew reports, “mainstream and moderate” attitudes.

Nevertheless, in the last decade, Muslims, Arabs, Middle Easterners, South Asians and those who’ve been confused for any of the above, have been the targets of a marked rise in job-related discrimination, hate crimes and biased-based bullying.

“Fear is a two-way street,” said Zahra Billoo, the executive director of the Bay Area chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, a national Muslim civil rights and advocacy group. “It’s created fear within the community too.”

Billoo said that since September 11, it’s not uncommon for American Muslims to be confronted by anti-Muslim incidents in their daily life, the the utter frequency of which have begun to normalize Islamophobic rhetoric in even her community members’ eyes.

“Some sort of hate is manifested but it doesn’t rise to the level of a hate crime,” Billoo explained, “where someone calls me a terrorist, or someone looks at me funny, or someone yells something from their car at me.”

“It’s happened for so long that many people have taken it in as their reality and stopped complaining when it’s not okay, whether it’s happening to them or anyone else.”

Ali urged people to put the current debates within a historical context. “What’s happening right now is simply a remake. The characters in the past were Jews, Irish Catholics, and Japanese Americans,” Ali said. “And the scapegoating of those minority communities represents in hindsight the worst of America.”

Ali said he hoped the report would give these funders an opportunity to assess their political priorities and distance themselves from the obvious fearmongering that they’ve funded. He said that the U.S. needs to learn from its past mistakes and regain its moral compass to bring some moderation back to the national discourse.

“What’s inspiring is that America usually does find its way back,” Ali said. “Sometimes grudgingly, and sometimes after making mistakes along the way. But we’re a resilient nation, eventually we find our way.”

* This article has been updated since publication.

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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Terrorism in Norway: Connections to US Extremists Geller & Spencer

July 28, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

By Bill Warner

NORWAY/

Norway’s Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store (R) addresses inside the World Islamic Mission Mosque as Crown Prince Haakon (L) looks on in Oslo, July 26, 2011.

REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

Anders Behring Breivik was was/is deeply involved with the “Counter-Jihad” blogosphere of Pamela Geller and her Atlas Shrugs website and Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch along with UK far right groups such as the EDL and the “Stop the Islamization of Europe (SIOE) Norway’. Stop the Islamization of Europe (SIOE) Norway is directly linked to NYC extreme right wing blogger Pamela Geller and her Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA) http://sioaonline.com/

The Norwegian daily VG quoted one of Breivik’s friends saying that he had become a right wing extremist in his late 20s and was now a strong opponent of multi-culturalism, expressing strong nationalistic views in online debates. Breivik had talked admiringly about conversations he had had with unnamed English Defence League (EDL) members and the organisation Stop the Islamification of Europe over the success of provocative street actions leading to violence.

“I have on some occasions had discussions with SIOE and EDL and recommended them to use certain strategies,” he wrote two years ago.  “The tactics of the EDL are now to ‘lure’ an overreaction from the Jihad Youth/Extreme-Marxists, something they have succeeded in doing several times already.” Contacted about the allegation by email by last night the EDL had not answered.

According the website Atlantic.com, Anders Behring Breivik expressed extremist Islamophobic views on forums and criticised immigration policies. He argued on a Swedish news website that the media were not critical enough about Islam and claimed that Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom in the Netherlands was the only ‘true’ party of conservatives.

Norway mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik is the white face of the Anti-Muslim right wing nut world inspired by Pamela Geller of “Atlas Shrugs” and Robert Spencer of “Jihad Watch”, told you so about these people.

Time for the FBI to shut down Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer’s SIOA hate macine. SIOA/SIOE/EDL Neo Nazi Summit in Europe this Summer Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller To Officiate The Hate Fest in France Que Up The Riot Police.

Anders Behring Breivik regularly posted on a Norwegian right-wing site called http://www.document.no/ in 2009 and 2010, the editor of the site Hans Rustad said, SEE BELOW, Anders Behring Breivik’s comments about Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch the EDL and SIOE, Document.no posting 2010-02-17 back to 2009-09-07;

“I (Anders Behring Breivik) feel it is important to create a pan-European platform for rhetoric / objectives / policy analysis / research of historical factors relevant to so and transfer this knowledge to every nation. It pan-Europeiske/US environment Robert Spencer (Jihad Watch), Fjordman, Atlas (Pamela Geller), Analekta + 50 other EU / U.S. bloggers (and Facebook groups) is the epicenteret for policy analysis and has been for some years.

I recommend to you all also strongly recommended to extend Facebook their networks, using the daily quota of 50 invitations to connect with Brits, French, Swedes, etc. Join groups that SIOE – Stop the Islamisation of Europe, Against Multiculturalism, join Progress Party. Watch the web pages “gates of vienna”, “brussels journal”, “Jihad Watch“, “religion of peace” etc. Read Fjord Man’s work “Defeating Eurabia”. This is as the perfect Christmas gift for family and friends.

All remember the July riots in Marseilles and other French cities where the media were instructed not to report the news, see (Pamela Geller “Atlas shrugs”) http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas_shrugs/2009/07/media-blackout-violence-infrance.html

The whole conflict between GDP and EDL (English Defense League) started with a change of leadership in the EDL for a few months ago. They threw out the racist and denounced the BNP. They chose instead SIOE’s ideological basis that is more or less mainstream view on the right side in Western Europe now (Vienna School of Thought).

Nick was very offended and began to demonize the EDL. Although they are now attacking each other as they compete not at all as these are two quite different fronts. 90% of all votes in the EDL continued GDP (Since this is the only alternative to multikulti in the UK) and 90% of GDP supports EDL regardless of what Nick had to think.

Second, Labour governs intelligence service. They had never in his life supported the EDL as these create a lot of positive attention for the cultural conservative movement in the UK. I have on some occasions discussed with SIOE and EDL and recommended them to use conscious strategies.

EDL is an example and a Norwegian version is the only way to prevent Flash / SOS to harass Norwegian cultural conservatives from other fronts. Creating a Norwegian EDL should be No.3 on the agenda after we have started up a cultural conservative newspaper with national distribution.

There are political forces in Oslo who want to mass-act subsidized / low cost “Islam-blocks” in Oslo West for “better integration“. As far as I know, only the Progress Party / Conservatives who oppose the moment so it can actually become a reality over the next decade. Can you name ONE country where multiculturalism is successful where Islam is involved?

I have great respect for how the Marxist-humanist networks in Norway are able to use their power optimally through “force Multiplication” and cooperation. They are insanely hard-working, skilled in the consolidation and hard-working and most on the right side has a lot to learn from them.

I myself am a Protestant and baptized / confirmed to me by my own free will when I was 15. But today’s Protestant church is a joke. Priests in jeans who march for Palestine and churches that look like the minimalist shopping centers. I am a supporter of an indirect collective conversion of the Protestant church back to the Catholic. In the meantime, I vote for the most conservative candidates in church elections.

Lou Dobbs of CNN was hit by the unofficial section and he ultimately chose to go. It is not unlikely that he was forced out because he changed his ideological standpoint in the course of his career. He became more and more critical of Muslim mass immigration to the U.S. which was not consistent with CNN’s politically correct line.”

Bill Warner Sarasota Private Investigator www.wbipi.com.