DOJ Settles Over Hijab

October 24, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

DOJ Press Release

hijabWASHINGTON — The Department of Justice announced today that it has entered into a consent decree with the Board of Education of Berkeley School District 87 in Berkeley, Ill. that, if approved by the court, will resolve a religious accommodations lawsuit filed in December 2010.  In its lawsuit, the United States alleged that the school district violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by failing to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of Safoorah Khan, a Muslim teacher at McArthur Middle School. “Employees should not have to choose between practicing their religion and their jobs,” said Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.  “The facts of this case show the consequences of an employer refusing to engage in any interactive process to understand and work with an employee to find an accommodation of the employee’s religious beliefs that will not cause undue hardship to the employer.  We are pleased that Berkeley School District has agreed to implement a training program that puts into place an interactive process to ensure that each request for a religious accommodation will be considered on a case-by-case basis and granted if it poses no undue hardship on the school district.” The government’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago, alleged that Ms. Khan requested an unpaid leave of absence in December 2008 to perform Hajj, a pilgrimage required by her religion, Islam.  According to the complaint, Berkeley School District denied Ms. Khan a reasonable accommodation of her religious practice, compelling Ms. Khan to choose between her job and her religious beliefs, thus forcing her discharge.  The United States also alleged that the school district maintains a policy under which it refuses to grant leave to non-tenured teachers as an accommodation for their religious practices if the leave requested is not already provided for in the school district’s leave policy.  The lawsuit was based on a charge of discrimination filed by Ms. Khan with the Chicago District Office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  After investigating Ms. Khan’s charge, finding reasonable cause to believe that Berkeley School District had discriminated against Ms. Khan, and unsuccessfully attempting to conciliate the matter, the EEOC referred the charge to the Department of Justice.

Under the terms of the consent decree, Berkeley School District will pay $75,000 to Ms. Khan for lost back pay, compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees.  Berkeley School District also is required to develop and distribute a religious accommodation policy consistent with Title VII’s requirement to reasonably accommodate the religious beliefs, practices and/or observances of all employees and prospective employees.  In addition, Berkeley School District is required to provide mandatory training on religious accommodation to all board of education members, supervisors, managers, administrators and human resources officials who participate in decisions on religious accommodation requests made by its employees and prospective employees.  This is the first lawsuit brought by the Department of Justice as a result of a pilot project designed to ensure vigorous enforcement of Title VII against state and local governmental employers by enhancing cooperation between the EEOC and the Civil Rights Division. “As the favorable resolution of this case demonstrates, closer collaboration between the EEOC and the Department of Justice will strengthen the enforcement of this nation’s civil rights laws,” said Jacqueline A. Berrien, Chair of the EEOC.  “Our partnership is critical to ensuring that workplaces are free of bias.”  Title VII prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of gender, race, color, national origin or religion, and prohibits retaliation against an employee who opposes an unlawful employment practice, or because the employee has made a charge or participated in an investigation, proceeding or hearing under the Act.  More information about Title VII and other federal employment laws is available on the Department of Justice website at www.usdoj.gov/crt/emp/index.html

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.  Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov

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On Being Faithful Muslims and Loyal Americans

October 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Community News (V13-I39)

September 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Presentation on Islam in Humboldt

EUREKA,CA–In order to obtain cultural/inter-religious harmony in the community through diffusion of information, the Humboldt County Human Rights Commission and the Humboldt County Library are co-sponsoring a one hour presentation on “Understanding Islam” by Abdul Aziz, professor emeritus at Humboldt State University.

It will be held from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. in the Conference Room of the Humboldt County Library, 1313 3rd St., Eureka, on Saturday.

Fundamentals of Islam including issues such as the concept of God, the life of Prophet Muhammad, Muslim beliefs, modes of worship, various forms of Jihad, status of women, suicide bombing and terrorism with reference to the current political and social environment will be discussed in light of the teachings of the Quran. However, any question on Islam will be welcome.

Aziz has taught an off-campus HSU course, “Introduction to Islamic Culture,” for a number of years. He is also a past Humboldt County Human Rights commissioner.

There is no cost to attend. Everyone is invited. For more information, call 707-822-8217

Fast-a-thon to be held at UNM

The Muslim Student’s Association at the University of New Mexico will hold its annual Fast-A-Thon this week to raise money and awareness for famine in the eastern horn of Africa.

Last year’s fast raised roughly $1,200 for flood relief in Pakistan. This year organizers says they hope to raise even more money and more awareness to help end world hunger.

“Just because now they don’t talk about it that much in the media, doesn’t mean people aren’t starving to death anymore,” said MSA President Mustafa in an interview to the student newspaper. “We need to keep focus and attention on people who need help, not just because it’s a news story, but because as human beings we all need to take care of each other.”

The event is not exclusive to Muslim students.

“This fundraiser is a human issue, meaning we want people of all different faiths, cultural backgrounds, different political ideologies, etc. to come help and support the people of the eastern horn of Africa,” she said. “As fellow humans we should bear the responsibility in making sure that we all help each other out, and this fundraiser is just another opportunity for doing so.”

New York cabbies win rights to veto racy ads

NEW YORK,NY–New York City cabbies who object to driving taxis topped with ads for strip clubs have won the right to veto the racy ads.

The city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission approved a new rule last week  that lets cabbies who own their vehicles say no to the racy ads.

Several cabbies told the commission they hated the provocative roof ads.

Previously the owners of taxi medallions could decide what ads to put on the cars. Many taxi owners do not own the medallion.

The racy ads were objected to not only by Muslim taxi owners but also others. A Sikh owner told the board that  his six-year-old granddaughter had told him she wanted to become a dancer after seeing an advert for Flashdancers on his taxi.

‘We should keep [the advertisement] there to tell the children that it is good?’ he had asked.

Dupage County approves mosque without dome

CHICAGO,IL–The DuPage County board voted last week to allow a mosque and Muslim community center to be built along Roosevelt Road near Lombard.

It will be built just east of Interstate Highway 355, at the southwest corner of Roosevelt Road and Lawler Avenue. Plans are for a main building with place for worship, a gym, a library, a learning area and a conference room.

But the board did not allow the Muslim group to build a 50 foot high dome to cover the prayer area. This is the second Muslim development in unincorporated DuPage County that has recently modified construction plans because the board denied approval for a dome.

The county sets a height limit of 36 feet in residential areas, and only grants variances to exceed that limit on a case-by-case basis.

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Over $150K Raised to Support Group’s Civil Rights Work

August 4, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

0703_john_espositoOn Saturday July 30, 2011, hundreds of community members, interfaith leaders, activists and public officials turned out for the nearly sold-out CAIR Texas Annual Banquet.

Some 400 people heard Muslim scholar Dr. John Esposito, Professor of Religion and International Affairs and of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University, and founding Director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding in the Walsh School of Foreign Service offer the keynote address.

Corey Saylor, CAIR Government Affairs Director gave an update of the many challenges facing the Muslim community, and how CAIR is addressing those issues nationally.

Rais Bhuiyan, one of the first hate crime victims post September 11, 2001, shared with attendees his near death experience and his journey of healing leading to compassion and mercy for his assailant, Mark Stroman, who was executed July 20th, despite Rais’ attempts to use lawsuits to intervene.

The banquets raised over $150,000 in contributions to support CAIR’s civil rights work.

CAIR Texas Executive Director Mustafaa Carroll states “We are grateful to God first and foremost, and to our community for its broad and unending support.”

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Syrian Forces Round Up Dozens in Hama

July 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dominic Evans

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syrian forces rounded up dozens of people around Hama on Wednesday, a day after shooting dead 22 people, activists said, and Amnesty International said Syria may have committed crimes against humanity in an earlier crackdown.

Tanks were still stationed outside Hama, which has seen some of the biggest protests against President Bashar al-Assad and was the site of a bloody crackdown against Islamist insurgents nearly 30 years ago.

But some of the tanks were redeployed away from the city and a resident said security forces were concentrated around the headquarters of the ruling Baath Party, the police headquarters and a state security compound. Most arrests took place in the outskirts of the city.

Ammar Qurabi, Cairo-based head of the Syrian National Human Rights Organization, said the death toll from Tuesday, when gunmen loyal to Assad swept through the city, had risen to 22.
He said hundreds of people had been arrested.

Rami Adbelrahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 23 people had died in Hama in the last 24 hours, and that an opposition figure in the city had reported water and electricity supplies were cut to the city on Wednesday morning.

State news agency SANA said one policeman had been killed in a clash with armed groups who opened fire on security forces and threw petrol and nail bombs at them. It made no mention of civilian deaths but said some “armed men” were injured.

Syria has prevented most independent media from operating inside the country, making it difficult to verify accounts from activists and authorities.

Hama was emptied of security forces for nearly a month after at least 60 protesters were shot dead on June 3, but the security vacuum emboldened demonstrators and on Friday activists said at least 150,000 people rallied to demand Assad’s downfall.

The next day Assad sacked the provincial governor and sent tanks and troops to surround the city, signaling a military assault similar to those carried out in other protest centers.
In a report released on Wednesday, Amnesty International said the crackdown two months ago against one of those protest centers — the town of Tel Kelakh near the border with Lebanon — may have constituted a crime against humanity.

Urging the United Nations to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court, it said nine people died in custody after being captured during the operation in the town, close to the Lebanese border.

“Crimes Against Humanity”

Describing a “devastating security operation”, it said scores of men were rounded up, and most of them were tortured.

Some detainees told Amnesty they were beaten and tied by the wrists to a bar high enough off the ground to force them to stand on the tip of their toes for long periods — known as the shabah, meaning ghost, position.

A 22-year-old man told Amnesty he was tied up in the shabah position had electric shocks applied to his body and testicles during five days of detention in the provincial capital Homs.

“Amnesty International considers that crimes committed in Tel Kelakh amount to crimes against humanity as they appear to be part of a widespread, as well as systematic, attack against the civilian population,” it said.

Syrian activists say security forces have killed more than 1,300 civilians since the unrest erupted 14 weeks ago. Authorities say 500 soldiers and police have been killed by armed gangs who they also blame for most of the civilian deaths.

Assad has responded to the protests with a mixture of repression and concessions, promising a political dialogue with the opposition. Preliminary talks on the dialogue are due to be held on Sunday.

But opposition figures refuse to sit down and talk while the killings and arrests continue, and diplomats say events in Hama will be a litmus test for whether Assad chooses to focus on a political or a military solution to the unrest.

Some residents sought to halt any military advance earlier this week by blocking roads between neighborhoods with rubbish containers, burning tyres, wood and metal.

The New York-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) said it had been told by an official at Hama’s Hourani hospital that security forces surrounded the hospital on Tuesday, although they did not enter it, as it received the bodies of four people and treated 60 others with gunshot wounds.

“Security forces have responded to protest with the brutality that’s become familiar over the past several months.” said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East director.

Assad’s father, Hafez al-Assad, who ruled Syria for 30 years until his death in 2000, sent troops into Hama in 1982 to crush an Islamist-led uprising in the city where the armed wing of the Muslim Brotherhood made its last stand.

That attack killed many thousands, possibly up to 30,000, and one slogan shouted by Hama protesters in recent weeks was “Damn your soul, Hafez”.

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Al-Awda Convention

May 5, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

As people of conscience throughout the world look for solutions to the unjust treatment Palestinians, one organization centers on a key issue: The Right to Return. 

Al-AWDA, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, held its ninth Annual International Convention this past weekend in Anaheim, Ca.  The theme of the Convention was: Onward, United and Stronger.   

The event began on Friday evening with a display of cultural resistance through various art forms. The attendees snacked on Arab appetizers and listened to poetry, viewed art works and heard two film makers speak about their work.

Workshops filled most of the next day. Covered were such topics as Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions; Return from Exile Project, and Palestinian Children’s Rights Campaign.   

Dr. Paul Larudee of the Free Palestine Movement (FPM) conducted the workshop on the Return from Exile Project. Dr. Larudee declared that the Nike slogan “Just Do It” should be the slogan for Palestinians. Too long have Palestinians waited for some organization – the United Nations – for example, to smooth their Right to Return. It is time, he said, to “just do it”.

He gave as a comparison the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions. The freedom fighters there did not ask permission of an outside body nor did they act with a preconceived notion of being rescued should their attempts fail. They not only took to the streets, they did so in such large numbers that they became unstoppable.

Dr. Larudee suggested that on a pre selected day a group of Palestinians who satisfy the requirements for the Right to Return, fly from various nations into Ben Gurion Airport. They must have a family home inside the Green Line; be citizens of and have a passport from a nation from which Israel does not require a visa; should be willing to go to jail for two weeks; must be willing to resist non violently being thrown out of Israel, and be content with the knowledge that they will be denied future entry.

The movement, Dr. Larudee emphasized, is direct action and non violent. The Free Palestine Movement is an outgrowth of the Free Gaza Movement (FGM), an organization which still exists and was the first group to break the Israeli sea blockade of Gaza, Palestine with two boats in the late summer of 2008. Dr. Larudee described the feeling of euphoria as the two boats approached Gazan shores to the cheers of the residents, crowed into the area where the boats would dock. He spoke proudly of the certificate of Palestinian citizenship he received on that voyage.

The web site of Dr. Larudee’s movement is: www.freepalestinemovement.org.

During the presentation of the Palestinian Children’s Rights Campaign, two young women, students from San Diego schools, spoke of the plight of children under Israeli occupation.
“Every year 700 children are imprisoned by Israel in the West Bank.”

The speakers went on to describe middle of the night raids where children are torn from their families; interrogations with no guardian or attorney present; imprisonment for three months with no opportunity to contact the outside world, and forced confessions, written in Hebrew which the children do not understand.

“I never realized it was this terrible” said one woman in the audience. “How can this go on?”

The women went on the explain that since rebuilding materials are forbidden by the Israelis to enter Gaza, young boys often collect gravel and metal scraps. To do this they must bend over and dig. It is common for Israeli forces to open fire when the children are in this vulnerable position, the aim being to hit their legs.

The Palestinian Children’s Rights Campaign is a few months old and is an AL-AWDA project. Information may be obtained and contributions made at: www.al-awda.org.

Invited guests included: Laila Al-Arian, Michel Shehadeh, Ali Abunimah, and Dr. Salman H. Abu Sitta.

KinderUSA, International Action Center, and the International Solidarity Movement were among those organizations that held displays.

A banquet was held in the evening to honor the valuable work of Dr. And Mrs. Musa Nasir. The Nasirs are not only active and productive members of AL-AWDA, they also founded the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF). The PCRF provides treatment free of charge to Arab children in the Middle East with emphasis on Palestine. Often the work is on site, but, if that is not feasible, the children are transported to nations where they can be treated to a restoration of health. The PCRF also trains medical personnel in the oPt and donates medical equipment to Palestinian hospitals. They have recently announced their entry into the field of pediatric oncology.

AL-AWDA is a broad based, non profit, democratic and grass roots organization which seeks to create awareness of the plight of the Palestinian people. It is composed of activists and students and seeks particularly to create such awareness among members of the media and elected officials.

AL-AWDA demands the Right to Return for the Palestinian people: the restoration of Palestinian rights including return to homes and compensation for confiscated and damaged property.

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Obama Honors Mary Robinson with Presidential Medal of Freedom

August 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

From LA County Foreign Policy Examiner, Lawrence Gist

Mary Robinson, the courageous former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, is among the distinguished recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom to be awarded by President Obama on August 12, 2009. This honor is well deserved. Robinson, the former President of Ireland, has brought a clear, uncompromising voice on behalf of people throughout the world whose rights have been infringed.

Yet, as it has done before, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has led a charge, joined in the last few days by several other groups, vilifying Robinson with false accusations that she is “anti-Israel.”  Most of their criticisms stem from her role at the UN Conference on Racism held in Durban, South Africa, in 2001 when she served as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“In stark contradiction to these allegations, Robinson forcefully condemned Israel-bashing and anti-Semitism under circumstances where it would have been far easier to remain silent,” noted PHR Deputy Director Susannah Sirkin.

Throughout her laudable tenure as High Commissioner, Robinson stood steadfastly for universal human rights. All Americans should be proud that President Obama is awarding this extraordinary honor to her. Physicians for Human Rights commends President Obama on his choices, and congratulates Mary Robinson together with all of the other 2009 honorees.

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