ISPU’s 2011 Annual Banquet in Dearborn

September 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

ISPU Press Release

For Immediate Release—The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding has  announced that Hollywood screenwriter, producer and director  Kamran Pasha  will serve as  its keynote speaker for the 2011 ISPU annual banquet “Navigating a Post 9/11 World”on Saturday October 22, 2011 at the Ford Conference and Events Center in Dearborn, MI.

Pasha is a prolific writer, penning two historical novels Mother of the Believers and Shadow of the Swords. He has been a writer and producer for NBC’s television series Kings, a modern day retelling of the Biblical tale of King David. Previously he served as a writer on NBC’s remake of Bionic Woman, and on Showtime Network’s Golden Globe nominated series Sleeper Cell, about a Muslim FBI agent who infiltrates a terrorist group.

The event will mark the culmination of ISPU’s special series of publications, events and conferences planned across the country to reflect on the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001.  “Navigating a Post 9/11 World: A Decade of Lessons Learned” explores several of the most pressing policy issues facing the United States and the American Muslim community, and presents forward thinking and inclusive policy recommendations for the future. The series addresses the threat of terrorism, policy shifts over the past decade and challenges and opportunities for Muslims in America. 

The annual banquet  will focus on the role ISPU has played in shaping the policy debate on key issues over the last year, as well as how trailblazers like Kamran Pasha, have broken down barriers and helped to change the way the American public views Muslims in popular media.

ISPU will honor Dr. Aminah McCloud with the 2011 Scholar Award. Dr. McCloud is the Director of the Islamic World Studies Program at DePaul University. She is the founder of Islam in America Conference at DePaul and editor for The Journal of Islamic Law and Culture.

The 2011 ISPU Distinguished Award for Philanthropy to will be presented to Tim Attala. Saeed Khan will act as the Master of Ceremonies.

In 2010, ISPU’s Annual Banquet featured Keynote Speaker Rashad Hussain, US Special Envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The event gathered 600 attendees including Congressmen John Conyers, Deputy Special Envoy to the OIC Arsalan Suleman, and Michigan State University Provost Kim Wilcox. 

Event information:

Saturday October 22, 2011 6:00pm Registration & Appetizers, 7:00pm Program. Ford Conference and Events Center, Dearborn, MI; 1151 Village Road; Dearborn, MI 48124-5033; Tickets – $100

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Still Painful, September 11 Has Few Rewards for Hollywood

September 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – It was a disastrous attack that played out live on television 10 years ago, riveting a horrified nation for days.

But the thought-provoking films and TV shows that followed, depicting the fiery attacks of September 11, 2001 and their aftermath, have mostly been shunned by American audiences who favored escapist movies and almost-reality TV while wars raged in Iraq and Afghanistan in the decade that followed.

Culture watchers and media pundits say audiences are not yet ready to relive a memory that remains painful, and some experts note that this particular chapter of American history is still unfinished.
“Films about 9/11 run the risk of being exploitational because they deal with such an epic tragedy and they don’t have a resolution. One of the things Hollywood wants is a happy ending, and you are not going to get it,” said Wheeler Winston Dixon, author of “Film and Television after 9/11” and a professor at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

Ten years on, the trauma of September 11 and the ongoing war against terrorism have left their mark on pop culture in subtle yet omnipresent ways. And perhaps surprisingly, Muslims have escaped the widespread demonization on screen that many feared when followers of Osama bin Laden crashed passenger planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
“After 9/11, I was terrified of the direction this country was going to go toward Muslims,” said Kamran Pasha, one of the few Muslim screenwriters in Hollywood.
“But in many ways, Hollywood is showing more sophistication and empathy toward the Muslim community than I think a lot of people in America are,” Pasha said.

BOX OFFICE FLOPS

Just two mainstream movies, “United 93” and “World Trade Center”, attempted to recreate the events of 9/11, both with strongly patriotic overtones. But the 2006 films together took in less than $250 million at global box offices — about the same as “Avatar” grossed on its opening weekend in 2009.

Stories dealing directly or indirectly with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan fared even worse, despite sometimes boasting A-list stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Matt Damon and Reese Witherspoon.

Whether telling of heartbreak among troops and their families (“Brothers”, “Stop-Loss”), conspiracies and cover-ups (“Body of Lies”, “Rendition”) or politics (“Lions for Lambs”), Americans stayed away in droves. “Over There”, the first TV series to depict an ongoing war, was axed in 2005 after just four months.

“I don’t think audiences have wanted to relive one of the most painful chapters in our nation’s recent history. At least, not so soon,” said Claudia Puig, film critic for USA Today.

Even 2010 best picture Oscar winner “The Hurt Locker”, about a bomb disposal team in Iraq, brought in only $49 million at box offices worldwide — a decent sum for a low-budget picture but nowhere near blockbuster status.

Instead, one of Hollywood’s favorite genres, comic book flicks, soared with audiences in movies like “Iron Man”, “X-Men” and “Spider-Man”.

Television, with its quicker production times and lower budgets, was first off the mark on 9/11 with White House series “The West Wing” providing the perfect showcase in October 2001 for a discussion on terrorism, religion, race and intolerance.

Although created before September 11, counter terrorist agent Jack Bauer arrived in 2001 in TV thriller “24”. The series quickly embodied America’s post-September 11 state of mind, particularly in Bauer’s hard-hitting methods to get the bad guy and the show’s initially negative depiction of Muslims.

Yet “24” ended in 2010 with Bauer praying on his deathbed with a Muslim Imam. Pasha called that “a quantum leap from where the show started.”

WHO ARE THE BAD GUYS?

Screen villains have become more rounded and more diverse than pre-2001, when Arabs were already Hollywood’s go-to bad guys after the Middle Eastern plane hijackings of the 1980s.

Lawrence Wright, screenwriter for the 1998 movie “The Siege” about a radical Islamic group attack on New York, said that after September 11 “the world became a lot more complicated. It was indelicate to attack Muslims.”

Pasha said the 2005-06 Showtime TV drama “Sleeper Cell,” which he co-produced, was a “pivotal change” in the depiction of the Muslim community. It featured a Muslim American undercover agent who infiltrates a terrorist cell whose members include a white European woman, a gay Muslim and a Latino man.

“It tried to show the perspective of the al Qaeda guys, showing them as human beings and what could make them do these terrible things,” Pasha said.

Puig said Hollywood is now adapting its viewpoint, with villains in several recent movies being Russian or South American. “Some of that may be due to profiling concerns or political correctness, but it also reflects an expanded outlook on the terrorism genre in films,” she said.

Television also is moving forward.

New York firefighter drama “Rescue Me” began in 2004 and became the only long-running TV series to deal with the human toll of the attacks. The series ends on Sept 7, in what its co-creator and star Denis Leary calls a fitting conclusion.

Upcoming Showtime drama “Homeland” is a political thriller about a U.S. soldier who is suspected of having been turned militant by his captors in Iraq.

“Things have become deeper and more complex. And the heart of this show is really psychological — how America is dealing with the 10-year period post 9/11,” said “Homeland” executive producer Alex Gansa.

Yet, there remains at least one final look back. TV networks will revisit September 11 with numerous news specials and documentaries to mark the 10th anniversary.

Dixon doubts many Americans will be tuning in, even given the killing at U.S. hands in May of Osama bin Laden.

“I don’t think (the TV specials) are going to do well,” he said. “I lived through it once. I really don’t need to live through it again, because there is no happy ending in sight.”

(Additional reporting by Christine Kearney; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and David Storey)

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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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Unity in Diversity

July 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Aysha Jamali

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

AJ_photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Victim of 9/11 Hate Crime wants Governor of Texas to Pardon the Attacker

June 30, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

“Rais Bhuiyan is calling for compassion, healing, and forgiveness. Sign his petition at www.worldwithouthate.org”.

Rais Bhuiyan Speaking At The Press Conferencebw
Rais Bhuiyan Speaking At The Press Conference

These were the words of Mustafaa Carroll, the executive director of the Texas Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-TX), as he welcomed the media and members of the Houstonian community to a special press conference.

Rais Bhuiyan, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Bangladesh, was one of this country’s first hate crime victims immediately following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He is requesting the Texas Criminal System and Governor Rick Perry that the scheduled July 20th, 2011 execution of his attacker, the white supremacist Mark Stroman, be commuted to life in prison without parole. Bhuiyan was working in a convenience store when, 10 days after the terrorist attacks, a man pushed a gun into his face. “Where are you from?” were the last words the 26-year-old Bhuiyan heard before his attacker shot him at close range, blinding him in one eye and leaving shrapnel he still carries in the right side of his face. The shooter had asked the same question of two other South Asian immigrants, Waqar Hasan and Vasudev Patel, before killing them in separate incidents on September 14th and October 04th, 2001, respectively.

Widow of Waqar Hasan and Rais Bhuiyan have both issued statements to forgive Mr. Stroman, while Rais Bhuiyan is going steps forward to have the death sentence commuted to life imprisonment without payroll and wants many people to sign his petition at www.worldwithouthate.org

“My parents have taught that hate leads to cycle of violence. Best thing is to forgive. Plus in our religion and Sacred Book Quran, we have been informed that saying one life is as saving the life of humanity. Our beloved Messenger Mohammad Peace Be Upon him was brutally wounded when he took message of God to the people of Taif. Angel Gabriel gave him the option to kill everyone in Taif, but he forgave them all by saying what they have done is in ignorance and hopefully future generations’ will be better than them. When I went for Hajj in 2009, I saw the valley of Taif, which is now one of the most peaceful places in Saudi Arabia. Although I lost one eye and bullets shrapnel are still in my skull, I still want to forgive Mr. Stroman due to the way my parents have brought me up and what I have learned from our religion Islam,” said Mr. Bhuiyan.

The joint hosts of the event were Dominican Sisters, a Christian faith based group against death penalty, and CAIR-TX. Other organizations, who either came to speak or are showing their support for Rais Bhuiyan cause include the Amnesty International, Dallas Peace Center (DPC), Houston Peace and Justice Center (HPJC), Islamic Circle of North America – Houston Chapter (ICNA-Houston), Muslim American Society – Houston Chapter (MAS-Houston), Sikh Establishment for Harmony, Appreciation & Joy (SEHAJ), Shades of White (SOW) world peace organization, Texas Coalition Against Death Penalty (TCADP), Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement (TDPAM) based at the SHAPE Community Center, and Greater Houston area religious leaders and human rights activists.
Speakers included:  Sister Ceil Roeger – Dominican Sisters, Rais Bhuiyan – World without Hate (www.worldwithouthate.org), Hadi Jawad – Representative Waqar Hasan Family, Rick Halperin – History Professor & Director of the Embrey Human Rights program at Southern Methodist University (SMU), Texas State Representative Lon Burnam (D-90),  Harpal Singh – Sikh Establishment for Harmony, Appreciation and Joy,  Imam Qasim Khan – Shades Of White world peace organization.

Mr. Stroman wrote on his website that he lost a sister in the attacks on the Twin Towers and that he believed his actions would be celebrated as those of a patriot. Now imprisoned in the Polunsky Unit death row facility in Livingston, Texas, Stroman has expressed profound remorse and deep regret for his actions, (Rick) Halperin says “…and when Mark’s appeals attorney, Lydia Brandt, shared with him (Stroman) that Rais and other members of the victims’ families have forgiven him and were working to commute his death sentence, he was reduced to tears.”  Bhuiyan is seeking solace for himself and the wives and children of the other shooting victims. “Executing Stroman is not what we want. We have already suffered so much; it will cause only more suffering if he is executed,” Rais said.

The decision to pursue commutation of Stroman’s sentence currently resides with Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins. If Watkins does not support commutation, Bhuiyan says he will appeal to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, which can then make a recommendation to Texas Governor Rick Perry to commute the sentence.

For additional information and to sign the on-line petition to commute Stroman’s death sentence to life in prison without parole, please go to Bhuiyan’s website, www.worldwithouthate.org.

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Conspiracy Theory

June 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Paul Craig Roberts

While we were not watching, conspiracy theory has undergone Orwellian redefinition.

A “conspiracy theory” no longer means an event explained by a conspiracy. Instead, it now means any explanation, or even a fact, that is out of step with the government’s explanation and that of its media pimps.

For example, online news broadcasts of RT have been equated with conspiracy theories by the New York Times simply because RT reports news and opinions that the New York Times does not report and the US government does not endorse.

In other words, as truth becomes uncomfortable for government and its Ministry of Propaganda, truth is redefined as conspiracy theory, by which is meant an absurd and laughable explanation that we should ignore.

When piles of carefully researched books, released government documents, and testimony of eye witnesses made it clear that Oswald was not President John F. Kennedy’s assassin, the voluminous research, government documents, and verified testimony was dismissed as “conspiracy theory.”

In other words, the truth of the event was unacceptable to the authorities and to the Ministry of Propaganda that represents the interests of authorities.

The purest example of how Americans are shielded from truth is the media’s (including many Internet sites’) response to the large number of professionals who find the official explanation of September 11, 2001, inconsistent with everything they, as experts, know about physics, chemistry, structural engineering, architecture, fires, structural damage, the piloting of airplanes, the security procedures of the United States, NORAD’s capabilities, air traffic control, airport security, and other matters. These experts, numbering in the thousands, have been shouted down by know-nothings in the media who brand the experts as “conspiracy theorists.”

This despite the fact that the official explanation endorsed by the official media is the most extravagant conspiracy theory in human history.

Let’s take a minute to re-acquaint ourselves with the official explanation, which is not regarded as a conspiracy theory despite the fact that it comprises an amazing conspiracy. The official truth is that a handful of young Muslim Arabs who could not fly airplanes, mainly Saudi Arabians who came neither from Iraq nor from Afghanistan, outwitted not only the CIA and the FBI, but also all 16 US intelligence agencies and all intelligence agencies of US allies including Israel’s Mossad, which is believed to have penetrated every terrorist organization and which carries out assassinations of those whom Mossad marks as terrorists.

In addition to outwitting every intelligence agency of the United States and its allies, the handful of young Saudi Arabians outwitted the National Security Council, the State Department, NORAD, airport security four times in the same hour on the same morning, air traffic control, caused the US Air Force to be unable to launch interceptor aircraft, and caused three well-built steel-structured buildings, including one not hit by an airplane, to fail suddenly in a few seconds as a result of limited structural damage and small, short-lived, low-temperature fires that burned on a few floors.

The Saudi terrorists were even able to confound the laws of physics and cause WTC building seven to collapse at free fall speed for several seconds, a physical impossibility in the absence of explosives used in controlled demolition.

The story that the government and the media have told us amounts to a gigantic conspiracy, really a script for a James Bond film. Yet, anyone who doubts this improbable conspiracy theory is defined into irrelevance by the obedient media.

Anyone who believes an architect, structural engineer, or demolition expert who says that the videos show that the buildings are blowing up, not falling down, anyone who believes a Ph.D. physicist who says that the official explanation is inconsistent with known laws of physics, anyone who believes expert pilots who testify that non-pilots or poorly-qualified pilots cannot fly airplanes in such maneuvers, anyone who believes the 100 or more first responders who testify that they not only heard explosions in the towers but personally experienced explosions, anyone who believes University of Copenhagen nano-chemist Niels Harrit who reports finding unreacted nano-thermite in dust samples from the WTC towers, anyone who is convinced by experts instead of by propaganda is dismissed as a kook.

In America today, and increasingly throughout the Western world, actual facts and true explanations have been relegated to the realm of kookiness. Only people who believe lies are socially approved and accepted as patriotic citizens.

Indeed, a writer or newscaster is not even permitted to report the findings of 9/11 skeptics. In other words, simply to report Professor Harrit’s findings now means that you endorse them or agree with them.

Everyone in the US print and TV media knows that he/she will be instantly fired if they report Harrit’s findings, even with a laugh.

Thus, although Harrit has reported his findings on European television and has lectured widely on his findings in Canadian universities, the fact that he and the international scientific research team that he led found unreacted nano-thermite in the WTC dust and have offered samples to other scientists to examine has to my knowledge never been reported in the American media.

Even Internet sites on which I am among the readers’ favorites will not allow me to report on Harrit’s findings.

As I reported earlier, I myself had experience with a Huffington Post reporter who was keen to interview a Reagan presidential appointee who was in disagreement with the Republican wars in the Middle East. After he published the interview that I provided at his request, he was terrified to learn that I had reported findings of 9/11 investigators.

To protect his career, he quickly inserted on the online interview that my views on the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions could be dismissed as I had reported unacceptable findings about 9/11.

The unwillingness or inability to entertain any view of 9/11 different  from the official view dooms to impotence many Internet sites that are opposed to the wars and to the rise of the domestic US police state.

These sites, for whatever the reasons, accept the government’s explanation of 9/11; yet, they try to oppose the “war on terror” and the police state which are the consequences of accepting the government’s explanation. Trying to oppose the consequences of an event whose explanation you accept is an impossible task.

If you believe that America was attacked by Muslim terrorists and is susceptible to future attacks, then a “war on terror” and a domestic police state to root out terrorists become necessary to make Americans safe. The idea that a domestic police state and open-ended war might be more dangerous threats to Americans than terrorists is an impermissible thought.

A country whose population has been trained to accept the government’s word and to shun those who question it is a country without liberty in its future.

Foreign Policy Journal

Paul Craig Roberts served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration.

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The Shari’ah Controversy in America:

June 16, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Waheeduddin Ahmed, Ph.D.

shariah-compliance_imgIslamophobia, as it exists today in America, cannot be assigned to a single cause. It has a variety of causes. Differences in belief systems have little to do with it, since such a chasm would require awareness, which is all but lacking in the general populace. Clash of civilizations is hardly causative in a civic society, where only one civilization prevails. In fact, it is the cultural side of Islam, which arouses prejudice and disapproval on the part of some and suspicion on the part of others.

The second cause is the global political conflicts in which Muslims are seen as occupying the center stage. Incessant news and events depicting individuals committing terrorist acts, with their religion specifically highlighted in the media if they are Muslims, constantly plays on the minds and emotions of the American people. The worst act of terrorism in its history occurred in New York on September 11, 2001. It was carried out by a few foreign miscreants from the Middle East with Muslim names and had roots in the Arab-Israeli conflict. While it shook the world, it sent chills down the spines of the Muslim inhabitants of America. They were hit the hardest just by name association. They walked the streets under suspicious and disdainful eyes and are still struggling to reclaim their rightful place in the American society.

We are living in an era sequential to global communism. The phobia which dominated that era was the fear of the great Bolshevik conspiracy, which would undermine our freedoms and individual liberties. The product of that phobia was the Cold War, generating thousands of nuclear weapons, sufficient to obliterate human race many times over and which gave birth to scores of dictators all over the world, who subjected their countrymen to tyranny and humiliation. The succeeding era would not pass without a phobia to decorate it with.  Islamophobia readily served the purpose. The bogey of the worldwide Islamic khilafa replaced that of the Communist conspiracy and is beginning to inflict the psyche of the American public. If there are any people, who are unaware of this khilafa “conspiracy”, it is the Muslim people themselves.

The Phobia and its Profile: The Mosque Controversies:

Proposals to build mosques to serve the religious needs of Muslims countrywide have brought out deep-rooted prejudices even from the members of the clergy, from California to Wisconsin to New York. Acts of vandalism against the Muslim places of worship such as in Tennessee proliferated. In Sheboygan, Wisconsin a Muslim doctor who owned a store type building proposed to convert the property into a place of worship for hundred or so of Muslims. The place was close to the hospital he worked in. A public hearing brought out some of the patients he had treated and had faith in, who spilled out venom against Islam, a faith they had no knowledge of. It shook the wits out of him and many of the citizens. In Manhattan, Muslims had been praying at Burlington Factory House at Park51 a makeshift mosque for a year before the Cordoba House proposal. On Fridays the congregation at Farah Mosque nearby would spill over on the street for want of sufficient accommodation. It was not a matter of “desecrating” Ground Zero but a matter of dire necessity and equal rights under the constitution. The proposal became such a big controversy that everybody from the president to the governor to the archbishop to the Jewish Defense League weighed in. It was made to look as though the proposed Cordoba House was a monument of Muslim “triumphalism” at Ground Zero.

Ban the Shari’ah Legislations:

The campaign against the Cordoba House project was started in a blog “Stop Islamization of America”, a xenophobic campaign, playing on the aforementioned fears of people, of the perceived impending transformation of the country’s religious face and its cultural profile. This is an outrageous presumption and a wildly imaginary scenario. Exact statistics are lacking but according to a study conducted by the American Jewish Committee there are 2.8million Muslims in America, while many Muslim organizations have been claiming that the total number stood at about six million. This makes the range of percent population to be from 0.9 to 1.9%. The true number may be closer to the lower figure than the higher one. Of the total population, the practicing Muslims may be less than half that number, scattered over a continent and among the population of 308.7 million. What a force for the Islamization of the United States of America!

The force behind this anti-Shari’ah tirade is an Arizona lawyer: David Yerushalmi, a White supremacist, an anti-Islam hate monger and the founder of the “Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE)”. He argues that whites are genetically superior to Blacks.  He wrote: “Some races perform better in sports, some better in mathematical problem solving, some better in language, some better in Western societies and some better in tribal ones.” He urged that the United States must declare war on Islam and all Muslim faithful. This puts him in the same category in hate mongering, as the likes of Meir Kahane, Baruch Goldstein, Daniel Pipes, David Horowitz and Peter Emerson. He had pushed legislation in 2007 to make adherence to Shari’ah a felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Sadly, it is him and the likes of him, who are driving the conservative legislative agenda in this country. He is either the author of or the consultant for most of the anti-Shari’ah bills, which have been introduced. The American legislators, who have been led onto this path by people like Yerushalmi, in the name of patriotism, should realize that their actions are mutilating the values and the principles on which this country was founded.

A majority of the anti-Shari’ah bills is considered to be, in the main, innocuous and inconsequential, emotive rather than practical, save SB1028, the State of Tennessee bill as originally proposed, which would have dangerously violated the basic human rights of Muslims, guaranteed in the constitution, by criminalizing the day to day acts of worship. The other acts of legislation have been rightly branded as: “A Solution in Search of Problem”. However, there are some very complex legal implications, which cannot be overlooked.

Shari’ah, meaning “the way” or “the path” encompasses many disciplines such as ritual worship, moral principles, trade, charity, dietary rules, monetary transactions, matrimony, inheritance as well as criminal law. Many of the Shari’ah rules have been absorbed into cultural norms and adherence to them is almost subconscious, such as the dietary rules. Although ritual worship is an essential part of religion, some Muslims pray and some don’t and those who pray would do so even under the shadow of a guillotine. The criminal law (the Shari’ah penal code) is in abeyance in a majority of the Muslim countries, as secular criminal laws have taken its place. The laws of marriages, divorce and inheritance are in general followed, except that polygamy is now obsolescent among the common people. Most of the laws of Shari’ah, including the penal code, bear striking similarity to the laws of the Old Testament (Halacha) and those followed in early Christian communities. Reformist movements in Judaism and the Church in Christianity have amended those laws but since in Islam there is no Church, Pope or “reform” authority, the Shari’ah has remained immutable, except where the rules are amenable to ijtehad (dialectical derivation).There is a corpus of exegesis in Shari’ah law but its implementation however, has been effected with a varying degree of laxity.

As for the criminal law, it must be noted that Muslims have lived under secular laws for ages without protestations. There are only two countries where Shari’ah law is applied, albeit selectively: Saudi Arabia and Iran.  American Muslims have therefore no qualms about living under the law of the land. Civil laws however are a different matter. Let us take the example of India, home to 161 million Muslims (13.4%) among a total population of 1.2 billion. The criminal law is the law of the land and is applicable to every resident. Muslims are not clamoring for the imposition of hudud, qisas or ta’dhir (elements of religious criminal law).  In civil matters, Muslims are allowed to follow their own “personal law” or opt for the secular law. Western countries would do well to consider this precedence.

The Archbishop of Canterbury had proposed a similar procedure for the British courts, where arbitration, with the consent of the contestants, would amiably settle disputes without burdening the courts with costly trials and litigations. In any case, in the matters of divorce, inheritance, child custody and child support, the parties would have an option between the Shari’ah and the secular laws, whichever they think serves their interests best. This kind of arrangement, if mutually agreed upon by the parties and allowed by the courts, does in no way threaten the integrity and the tranquility of the society; it may on the other hand enhance them. Nevertheless, we must ensure that the women’s rights and the children’s welfare are safeguarded by the courts in the best way possible. There will be times when the Shari’ah will serve women better than the states’ laws. In California recently a court ruled that meher payment (a contractual sum payable to a woman by her husband on divorce under the Shari’ah) violated the state law prohibiting spouses from “profiteering” from divorce. Loss to the woman in this case is obvious. In general the interests of the citizens as well as of the state would be best served when the courts are independent and have discretion — not obligation — in when to reference religious laws and when not to do so.

“Foreign” Law and the U.S. Courts:

In many states legislation prohibiting the courts from considering “foreign” law or international law is being pushed with a vengeance. This raises a number of very complex legal issues, involving international treaties and trade. Compliance with international treaties, when ratified, is vouchsafed in the U.S. constitution and may be outside the jurisdiction of any one state. However, there may be areas of trade and labor laws, where complications may arise and hamper businesses of American companies.

In the U.S. courts presently marriages contracted abroad and under the Shari’ah are recognized, so are divorces executed abroad. The integration of many immigrant families is based on this provision. In the matters of matrimony, parenthood, inheritance and execution of wills disputes do arise in courts and could not be settled without reference to “foreign” laws. There is a serious concern that the ramifications of ban on foreign law now or in the future may put strains on the justice system and adversely affect the social structure of the American society.

Islamophobia, the Underlying Reason:

It is hard to believe that the proponents of the ant-Shari’ah bill of Tennessee, as it was originally written, were unaware of its unconstitutionality. Clearly, their intent was provocation and their motive was historic religious prejudice. It is not uncommon in the American history and in the history of many other countries for hate groups to arise in certain political and economic circumstances and by their actions and rhetoric malign the very society whose wellbeing they claim to protect.

It was said after 9/11 that “history begins now” or words to that effect. How true! Muslim Americans have been living in the full glare of history ever since, with their faces lit with bewilderment, although some governmental agencies, the top political leadership of both the parties, the law enforcement agencies and the leadership of almost every faith have helped to take the attention away from them. We still remember with gratitude the president of the United States’ visit to a mosque in the aftermath of the tragic event and the kind words uttered. This brought out what was good in the American people and averted a possible catastrophe. We appeal to the same good nature of the American people not to heed to bigotry, prejudice and electoral polemics. America will lose its soul if it succumbs to religious intolerance. It will lose its reason for being.

Muslims in America are a highly diverse community, consisting of almost every race, ethnicity and culture, including a large indigenous section. Among them are doctors, engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs and workers, enriching the economy with their contributions. There are Nobel laureates such as Ahmed Zewail news anchors such as Fareed zakaria and many sports celebrities. There are highly regarded congressmen and mayors in many cities.

Muslim contribution in highlighting the moral values is an asset to the society, which should not be ignored. The mosques are not a threat to anybody but beacons of light. They are centers of spiritual uplift as well as of education, social activism, moral reformation and charity.  Most mosques have prison visit programs, which have resulted in transforming many individuals into productive and law-abiding citizens. Many mosques in the inner cities have food pantries, counseling and crisis management programs.  Above all they curtail social ills. Consider a man who comes to the mosque to pray early morning, early afternoon, late-afternoon, at sunset and at night, five times in Twenty-four hours, to renew his commitment to God. What are his chances of committing unsocial acts in between his prayers? If two million people do this in a society, is the society better off or worse?

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