About Me

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Hussam has been a lifelong human rights activist who is passionate about promoting democratic societies, in the US and worldwide, in which all people, including immigrants, workers, minorities, and the poor enjoy freedom, justice, economic justice, respect, and equality. Mr. Ayloush frequently lectures on Islam, media relations, civil rights, hate crimes and international affairs. He has consistently appeared in local, national, and international media. Full biography at: http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2006/08/biography-of-hussam-ayloush.html

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

"Not in the name of Islam" petition

“We, the undersigned Muslims, wish to state clearly that those who commit acts of terror, murder and cruelty in the name of Islam are not only destroying innocent lives, but are also betraying the values of the faith they claim to represent. No injustice done to Muslims can ever justify the massacre of innocent people, and no act of terror will ever serve the cause of Islam. We repudiate and dissociate ourselves from any Muslim group or individual who commits such brutal and un-Islamic acts. We refuse to allow our faith to be held hostage by the criminal actions of a tiny minority acting outside the teachings of both the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him."

View or sign the CAIR petition at:

Ayloush on solving the Middle East conflict

The conflict in the Middle East is not a religious one and it is also NOT an unsolvable one. A permanent peace for all the people, Muslims, Christians and Jews, in the region is possible.

That peace has to be based on justice. It WILL happen when Israel abides by the numerous U.N. Resolutions demanding that Israel end its occupation of Palestinian territories, recognize a sovereign Palestinian state and allow the return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland.

As long as there is an occupation, there is unfortunately no possibility for peace.
Our tax-money must not be used by a foreign country to occupy, brutalize, and dehumanize Palestinians. We no longer can afford remaining silent as Israeli policies create more enemies for our country.
It is time to speak up for America's interests for a change.

Letter to Editor: Bible, Quran easily quoted out of context

Letter to the Editor
August 29, 2006
North County Times

Andy McIntosh ("Islamic history, words at odds," Community Forum, Aug. 24), posed questions to Muslims, and I am more than happy to respond, in efforts to dispel myths about Islam and counter ignorance and Islamophobia.

The Quran, like other scriptures, cannot be understood except within its context. A verse in the Quran that Mr. McIntosh quoted specifically refers to Muslim armies involved in a defensive battle.

Similarly, one verse in the Bible can easily be taken out of context. It says, "Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep..." (1 Samuel 15:3)

Islam forbids aggression and, like Christianity, has rules for a just war. Those rules are limited to self-defense or protecting people who encounter injustice, as stated in the following verses in the Quran:

"Fight in the way of God against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! God loves not aggressors." (2:190)

Additionally, the Prophet Muhammad said, "Do not kill women or children or noncombatants and do not kill old people or religious people. Do not cut down fruit-bearing trees and do not poison the wells of your enemies."

Just as the Bible has been abused by fanatics to justify the Crusades, slavery and the Holocaust, so have fanatics abused the Quran to further their murderous agenda.

Islam, like other religions, teaches respect, peace and tolerance for everyone. I also wish peace on Mr. McIntosh and followers of all faiths.

Hussam Ayloush
Executive director,
Council on American-Islamic Relations
Southern California

Read more:

Dark Passages: How the Quran and the Bible can be mis-read

Urban Legends on Islam: The 9/11 verse in the Quran

Beware sensational translations of holy verse, torn out of context

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Most Muslims want peaceful co-existence, speaker says

By BILL SHERMAN World Religion Writer


Lecture Series: Know Your Muslim Neighbor
The questions at Thursday night's Muslim lecture series reflected American anxiety about the war on terror and the conflict on the Israel-Lebanon border.

And the answers were designed to ease that anxiety.

Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Southern California, spoke at the last of four Know Your Muslim Neighbor Lecture Series at Peace Academy, Tulsa's Muslim school.

"The overwhelming majority of Muslims want to peacefully co-exist with Christians and Jews," Ayloush said.

He said that if 1 percent of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims are bad people, "that's a lot of people."

"Extremism, fanaticism is a human phenomenon, not an Islamic or a Christian one," he said.

"Look at the Crusades, slavery, the Inquisition . . . the Holocaust. Would it be fair to blame Christianity for the Holocaust?

"It's part of the cycle of violence of mankind. Is it fair to blame Islam, which has a long history of tolerance? Don't judge a religion by the misguided acts of some of its members."

Ayloush said Harvard professor Samuel Huntington's theory that the world is heading toward a clash

of civilizations, Islam vs. the West, is misguided.

He said Muslim and American values are wholly compatible, and that Muslims love American freedom, values and culture, including American Levi's, food and music.

Polls consistently show, however, that the Muslim world opposes American foreign policy on several points, he said.

Most important is what Muslims see as America's one-sided, unconditional support for Israel, a nation they say is holding occupied territory and denying the Palestinians a homeland.

Muslims also view America's foreign policy as hypocritical, talking about human values and due process while supporting some of the most oppressive regimes on the globe -- Tunisia, Egypt and others.

Muslims believe the American government has a double standard, he said, reacting one way to the nuclear threat in North Korea and another to the nuclear threat in Iran.

Muslims also have the perception that American foreign policy is driven by self-interest, influenced by major corporations, defense contractors and the oil industry, he said.

Hezbollah and Hamas are not the problem in the Middle East; they are byproducts of a political problem.

"There won't be stability in the Middle East until the Palestinian issue is settled," he said. "There is a people waiting to be free, waiting for a just peace. We have to resolve it by having a viable Palestinian state."

Speaker overturns misconceptions of Islamic jihad


By Caitlin Roberson

The Muslim Student Association hosted an informational forum – "Operation Jihad: Misconceptions of a Peaceful Intention" – in honor of Islamic Awareness Week on Wednesday night.

The forum, held in the Computer Science building, was the third forum hosted by MSA this week.

Speaker Husam Ayloush – a member of the Council on American-Islamic Relations – discussed the meaning of Islamic Jihad and addressed common misconceptions of the term.

"The word 'jihad' makes most people think of Islamic extremists and events like Sept. 11," Ayloush said.

"But they do not remember that the image of long-bearded men carrying machine guns is media-produced," he added.

In Arabic, "jihad" means the exertion of effort for the sake of God, and has no implications of war or violence, Ayloush said.

The forum began with an Arabic hymn and a scripture reading from the Koran. Many individuals in the predominantly Muslim audience bowed their heads.

Ayloush mentioned that many individuals incorrectly associate jihad with the idea of a holy war.

This term "holy war" does not exist in Islamic terminology and was only written to describe the Crusades in the 1400s, he said.

Jihad ultimately promotes peace and justice in everyday activities, such as loving Allah above everything else and resisting worldly temptations, he added.

Ayloush mentioned that some people forget jihad is not always just an international affair but a local one as well.

He referred to the United Food and Commercial Workers strike against three major supermarket chains in Southern California as a local example of jihad.

"At a time when CEOs are making millions of dollars through supermarkets, store employees receive poor benefits and are paid little," he said.

"These strikers practice jihad by protesting in defense of the security of their families," he added.

Jihad can also implicate defending one's community from oppression, but it does not automatically call for war, Ayloush said.

"Islam is not about fighting until you teach someone a lesson. It is about fighting until persecution is no more," he said.

One student protester showed his disagreement with Ayloush; it was first-year biology student David Lazar, who stood outside the forum to protest. Ayloush responded by encouraging his audience to remember no religion is immune to extremist sects.

"No one judges Christianity by the acts of Hitler; no one judges Judaism by the acts of Sharon; So if you want to judge Islam, do not judge it by the acts of Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein," he said.

"Remember that the mainstream believers, not the extreme few, represent Islam," he added.

At the forum's end, Ayloush answered questions from the 50 students and Westwood residents in attendance.

Several audience members asked questions prompting heated discussions. These individuals were encouraged to stay after the forum to converse with Ayloush in private.

MSA plans to man a booth on Bruin Walk for the remainder of the week. Events and additional forums will be held as well.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Local Muslim and Jewish leaders discuss common ground

Building a basis for understanding the Middle East in Orange County
Round table: Representatives of county's Muslim and Jewish communities discuss whether there is common ground to bridge the gap between the two communities here and in mid-east.

The Orange County Register
Thursday, August 24, 2006

Are "Muslim fanatics" at the root of Middle East unrest? Is Israel racist in its policy toward refugees who want to return there? Are there areas of common ground that could lead to better understanding between Jews and Muslims in Orange County? Events in the Middle East resonate here as increasing discomfort – even animosity – between some. Just days ago the Register asked self-described moderate leaders in those two communities – Hussam Ayloush, rabbis Heidi Cohen and Lawrence Goldmark, and Sheik Yassir Fazaga – who was unable to attend – to meet for a roundtable discussion. What could they say to each other and to their communities in an effort to build trust and understanding?


Hussam Ayloush

Hussam Ayloush is the executive director of the Anaheim-based Southern California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Rabbi Heidi Cohen

Rabbi Heidi Cohen is a rabbi at Temple Beth Sholom in Santa Ana and the immediate past president of the Orange County Board of Rabbis.

Rabbi Lawrence Goldmark

Rabbi Lawrence Goldmark of Buena Park is rabbi at Temple Beth Ohr in La Mirada
and executive director of the Pacific Association of Reform Rabbis.

Rabbi Lawrence Goldmark: I think where we want to start is with the word "peace." Anything which causes peace to be postponed in the Middle East or here between us needs to be addressed.
Rabbi Heidi Cohen: Just that we're able to sit down together, recognize each other and have discussions together sends a message to our communities.

Hussam Ayloush: To be successful we need to try to de-emphasize what I'll call tribalism – my side right or wrong. Instead, keeping to our shared strong values of justice, humanity, fairness, compassion … .

Goldmark: You are dealing with American Jews who have political views toward Israel. Views not based on religious beliefs. There is no doubt that there are Jews who look at the Middle East and will say: "Just bomb 'em out." But it is nowhere near the feeling of the overwhelming majority of Jews here or in Israel.

Ayloush: From the Muslim perspective, for us, we felt from the beginning that this is a major misunderstanding in America – that this is a religious conflict. Because it is not a religious conflict. At least not for the overwhelming majority of Muslims. Which isn't to say that there aren't extremists who use this, make it sound like a religious war because it is the easiest way to justify the hatred. Rather than having to go over issues like U.N. resolutions or moral rights.

Goldmark: I am not saying it is a political dispute rather than a religious one. From the Jewish perspective, I believe we are dealing with Muslim religious fanatics. Are you saying that we should remove the term "Muslim fanatic"?

Ayloush: I think we need to acknowledge that these conflicts are about legitimate political grievances. And that the conflicts in Darfur, Palestine and Chechnya are very different with different solutions. The conflict in the Middle East is what, 55 or 60 years old? When did Islamism become a leading factor in the conflict? In 1983. With the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, which created Hezbollah. Before that, how come the Palestinian resistance was mainly Christian? Was that Christian fundamentalism? The others failed and the Islamists became more popular in the 1980s. But this is very nationalistic in Palestine. Two groups of people fighting over the same piece of land.

Goldmark: Would you be willing to be quoted that you are opposed to Hamas and Hezbollah's stated goals of destroying Israel?

Ayloush: Absolutely. I've been quoted as saying that. But I add to it that all parties in the Middle East, including Hamas, Hezbollah and Israel have committed terrorism.

Goldmark: But where I would start, what I want, is recognition of the inherent right of Israel to exist. Period. I don't see that on the part of the Arab/Muslim community. I'm saying, if you have come out and said – I am opposed to the statement that Israel should be destroyed – and your organization holds that position, it is where we can start.

Ayloush: But for us, the issue of the 6.5 million refugees is extremely important. Because if ... for many in the American Jewish community ... the return of the refugees is tantamount to the demographic destruction of Israel, I believe that is a very racist view. That is, if Israel can find room for a Jew from Russia who has never been there, but not for others, someone who might still hold the key to their homes ... .

Cohen: But how do we sit down and talk together? Earlier, there was a discussion of security in our synagogues, our mosques and our communities. We have common ground with these things. We are not going to solve the issues in the Middle East right now. But in sitting around this table we can talk about how we coexist here in America and have respect for each other's communities.

Ayloush: Yes. Eventually the other issues will have to be dealt with. But I am not going to use the issue of the refugees as a hindrance to working together on a million other things. It has taken a long time, and I am being very frank, for us to understand that the issue of Israel is such a highly sensitive one for the Jewish community (in America). It is actually more of a sacred cow than Judaism itself. Maybe there is a fear that there is no recognition of Israel.

Goldmark: Yes! Fear of the destruction of the state of Israel.

Ayloush: And I have to understand that that is something that has been a shadow on the discussion maybe. And maybe there is more need for the local Muslim community to explain that every poll and every survey that's taken shows people have accepted the two-state solution.

Cohen: But how are we going to affect the Middle East here? To be honest, we're not. There's a lot of money and moral support going over there, but … we are not sitting at that table.

Goldmark: All we know here in Orange County is that this is a starting point. There are people here who would not have walked into this room because one or the other of us is here. And that shouldn't be forgotten. We are here. Together.

Shut Down the Gitmo Gulag

By Hussam Ayloush
June 15, 2006

After the suicides of three Muslim detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, questions continue to be raised about the necessity of a facility originally designated to hold the worst of the world's deadliest terrorists.
These suicides were desperate acts committed by prisoners who saw neither an end to nor a reason for their incarceration. They must have known that in Islam, committing suicide is a major sin. So what would drive these detainees to such desperate acts?

There are nearly 30,000 suicides each year in our nation. According to research data with the Institute of Medicine, 90 percent of these suicides were associated with a mental illness, in particular, depression. Human rights groups such as Amnesty International have documented that depression runs rampant among prisoners at the Guantanamo camp, resulting in an increase in attempted suicides and hunger strikes.

Many people in the Muslim world were outraged when U.S. Navy and State Department officials labeled the suicides a "good PR move." Later realizing the negative impact of these statements, the State Department took a step back.

In the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, some 750 men belonging to 40 different nationalities were captured and imprisoned at the Cuban base. Some of the men were picked up in Afghanistan, while others were sold to American military by those looking to make money. A number of those detained were as young as 12 to 14 years old.

Desperate and depressed, many detainees tried to commit suicide by staging hunger strikes, but guards kept them alive through force-feeding, a practice criticized by the international medical community. They had been detained for years without ever being told what their crime was, or without being shown the inside of a courtroom.

In his 2002 State of the Union address, President George W. Bush described the prisoners as "terrorists who once occupied Afghanistan now occupy cells at Guantanamo Bay."

That same year, Vice President Dick Cheney told the American public that these were hardened terrorists, capable of the most heinous crimes. "These are the worst of a very bad lot. They are very dangerous. They are devoted to killing millions of Americans, innocent Americans, if they can, and they are perfectly prepared to die in the effort. And they need to be detained, treated very cautiously, so that our people are not at risk," he said.

But a report by a professor of Seton Hall University School of Law, who represents two Guantanamo prisoners, shows the kind of threat these men really posed.

According to the report, of the 517 detainees studied, only 8 percent were al-Qaeda fighters. Also, 55 percent of the prisoners had not committed any hostile acts against the U.S. or its allies. Just five percent were captured by the U.S. forces, while the rest were sold to the U.S. by Pakistani authorities, Afghanistan Northern Alliance and bounty hunters.

Reports of abuse and inhumane treatment at Guantanamo continue. A United Nations report earlier this year mentioned shackling prisoners, stripping them, covering them with hoods and blindfolds, using dogs and subjecting detainees to harsh temperatures, and stated that such abuses violated international law banning torture. Last month, a U.N. committee said the prison violated the 1984 Convention Against Torture. The U.N., key U.S. allies such as Britain and Germany, as well as U.S. Senator John McCain and others have questioned Gitmo's tactics and called for its closure.

To this day, most detainees are denied lawyers, a right to a fair trial or visitation from family members. We are told we are fighting this war to protect freedom and rule of law, yet we fail to implement those same principles at Guantanamo Bay.

It would be difficult to fathom the idea of another country taking in hundreds of American prisoners, accuse them of a crime, and then never grant them a fair trial, or any trial for that matter.

Those guilty of real crimes should be tried and punished. But those who are innocent must be released. It is time to shut down the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and end this dark chapter in our modern history.

Beware sensational translations of holy verse, torn out of context

Quoting the Quran
Beware sensational translations of holy verse, torn out of context

The Press Enterprise
Friday, July 22, 2005

Editor's note: When a reader recently wrote to us with a provocative question about the nature of Islam, we sought a response from a Muslim leader from the Inland region. The query and answer are published here.

Peaceful precepts?
Parvez Ahmed's commentary ("Blame Islam game misguided pastime," July 15) states that the bombings in London were committed by "Islamic extremists" and were universally condemned by major Muslim groups throughout the world as being totally against the precepts of Islam.
I have a simple, straightforward question and I'd like a simple, straightforward answer. The Quran, sura 47:4, states, "When you meet the unbelievers, strike off their heads; then when you have made wide slaughter among them, carefully tie up the remaining captives."
How do Parvez Ahmed and the others reconcile their statements with the command of Allah as recorded in the inerrant word of Allah by Muhammad, His prophet?


Imagine a letter to the editor asking Christians or Jews to reconcile Christianity or Judaism in light of an out of context verse from the Bible, such as: "Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass." (1 Samuel 15:3)

Or this verse: "The people of Samaria must bear their guilt because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open." (Hosea 13:16)

This is certainly not a fair or scientific way to understand the Bible nor the peaceful message of Christianity or Judaism. The Quran, like all other scriptures, can not be understood except within its context. Taking a verse out of its theological or historical context can lead to mis-interpretations, often the hallmark of extremists. Just as the Bible has been abused by fanatics to justify slavery and holocaust, so have Muslim fanatics abused the Quran to further their murderous agenda.

The verse that the writer referred to, verse 4 from chapter 47 specifically refers to Muslim armies involved in a battle encounter. Here is a more authentic, and less sensational, translation:

"So when you meet in battle those who disbelieve, then smite the necks until when you have overcome them, then make (them) prisoners, and afterwards either set them free as a favor or let them ransom (themselves) until the war terminates."

Islam forbids wars of aggression and, like Christianity, sets strict conditions for a just physical warfare. Those conditions are limited to self-defense or removing injustice against other people, as stated in the following verses in the Qur'an.

"Fight in the way of God against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! God loves not aggressors." (2:190)

"And why should you not fight in the cause of God and of those who, being weak, are ill-treated and oppressed? - Men, women, and children, whose cry is: 'Our Lord! Rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from You, one who will protect; and raise for us from You, one who will help.'" (4:75)

Moreover, Islam imposes strict rules and ethics on its adherents involved in such just wars. For example, the Prophet Muhammad said: "Do not kill women or children or non-combatants and do not kill old people or religious people, (and he mentioned priests, nuns, and rabbis). Do not cut down fruit-bearing trees and do not poison the wells of your enemies."

The Prophet also said: "whoever unjustly harms a Christian or a Jew will not even smell the scent of paradise."

Islam's core message is to foster good relationship among all people, regardless of race, color, or religion. The Qur'an teaches Muslims to revere all prophets, including Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob, Moses, John the Baptist, and Jesus and to respect their followers. Peace, respect, and fair cooperation are the basis of all human relationships. The murderous acts of a few, whether Muslims or others, should not shake our eternal faith that we, as human beings or believers in God, can live in harmony on this planet of ours.

I invite those who wish to learn more about the American Muslim community to visit www.cair.com

Read more:

Dark Passages: How the Quran and the Bible can be mis-read

Letter to Editor: Bible, Quran easily quoted out of context

Urban Legend on Islam: The 9/11 verse in the Quran

Islam, Explained; Bigotry Exposed

By: Hussam Ayloush
Published in the Orange County Register
June 25, 2006

A recent book review by Orange County Register senior editorial writer, Steve Greenhut, praised a book arguing that the minority of Muslim extremists who are involved in terrorism are not a deviation from, but rather a "natural result of following the actual teachings of Muhammad and the Koran."

Such a conclusion by the book author and reviewer reflects either a distressing ignorance about Islam or more worrisome, an unrepentant Islamophobia. I usually refrain from responding to outright bigotry; however, when such bigotry finds its place in a mainstream newspaper, I have no choice but to respond.

No religion, including Islam, should bear the responsibility of the actions by the extremist few who twist its teachings. And no religion should be judged through a selective reading of its scripture. In every scripture, extremists can find justification for any of their acts. Verses from the Bible were manipulated by extremists to justify the Crusades and the killing of hundreds of thousands of Eastern Christians and Muslims, the inquisitions, the enslavement and lynching of Africans and African Americans, the blessing of Nazi German soldiers, the Apartheid in South Africa, the Catholic-Protestant pogrom cycle in Europe, the displacement of Palestinians and the bombing of abortion clinics.

Muslims certainly do not judge Christianity or Judaism by those acts, but rather by our belief in the message of peace and justice taught by the revered prophets Moses and Jesus. Similarly, Islam should be judged by its message of justice and equality as followed by most of its 1.3 billion followers.

Muslims' relationship with other people is based on peace, mutual respect, cooperation, justice and kindness as guided by Quranic verses such as:

"There is no compulsion in religion" (2:256)

"O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that you may know one another. Lo! The noblest of you, in the sight of God, is the best in conduct." (49:13)

"God forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for God loves those who are just." (60:8)

Islam forbids wars of aggression and, like Christianity, sets strict conditions for just warfare. Those conditions are limited to self-defense or removing injustice against other people. For example, the Prophet Muhammad said: "Do not kill women or children or non-combatants and do not kill old people or religious people (he also mentioned priests, nuns and rabbis). Do not cut down fruit-bearing trees and do not poison the wells of your enemies."

More importantly, Islam's long history of tolerance speaks for itself. After more than 14 centuries of Muslim rule over the Middle East, tens of millions of Christians still share the same towns and villages with Muslims, in mutual brotherhood and respect. The rare exceptions that occurred have impacted all religious communities, equally. Prophet Muhammad, who was also married to a Christian and a Jew, said: "Whoever harms a Christian or a Jew, it is as if he has harmed me."

If Islam's goal is to kill or convert non-Muslims then why is it that after over 700 years of Muslim rule, India is still 80% Hindu? Or why is it that Jews fled the European persecution of many centuries to live with Muslims in Andalusian Spain and North Africa in what they described as the "Golden Age of Judaism"?

If the teachings of Islam are so violent and evil, then why is it the fastest growing religion in the West as well as the rest of the world? Why have hundreds of thousands of peaceful Westerners chosen Islam as their new religion, about two third of them women? Why have Cat Stevens (former rockstar), Wilfried Hofmann (former NATO director of information), Leopold Wiess (former Austrian Jewish statesman), Herbert Hobohm (former German diplomat), and other intellectuals and leaders converted to Islam?

There must be something other than its "viewing of non-Muslims as enemies that are to be treated without any rights" as Mr. Greenhut would like us to believe. Maybe it is Islam's stress on the brotherhood of all human beings, regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion. Maybe it is Islam's struggle for justice and equality for all people. Maybe it is Islam's balance, spirituality, simplicity, humility, and tolerance.

All religions can co-exist peacefully, when the true followers stop tolerating the few haters among them who try to divide us along religion lines. We all need to reject the hatemongers who try to negate the humanity and goodness in people who are different than us. Religions are good; it is the bad followers who bring them the bad name.

A Muslim Response to Prager’s ‘Five Questions’

By Hussam Ayloush
Thursday, November 17, 2005

In a recent commentary, radio talk show host Dennis Prager posed five questions that "that law-abiding Muslims need to answer for Islam's sake, as well as for the sake of worried non-Muslims."

SEE: “Five Questions Non-Muslims Would Like Answered”

Prager said his questions were prompted in part by recent rioting in France "by primarily Muslim youths," despite the fact that neutral experts say the violence had little to do with Islam and it was Muslim leaders who ultimately helped quell the violence.

Dennis Prager

Faulty premise aside, here are answers to Prager's questions:

Q: Why are you so quiet (about terrorism carried out in the name of Islam)?

A: One might argue that Muslims could do more to get their anti-terror message out. But to say Muslims have been quiet about their unequivocal condemnation of terrorism is a gross misrepresentation of the facts and reeks of Islamophobia.

It was after all a coalition of American Muslim groups that issued what was perhaps the first condemnation of the 9/11 attacks. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) also published a full-page advertisement condemning the attacks.

Muslims have consistently condemned suicide bombings in the Middle East, attacks on the London transportation system, the bombing of hotels in Jordan, and many similar outrages.

Muslims scholars recently issued a fatwa, or Islamic religious ruling, condemning terrorism and religious extremism. (See: www.cair.com ) Muslim groups in Texas and Arizona held anti-terror rallies. In Jordan huge demonstrations were held against the recent terror attacks. Muslims in Lebanon demonstrated against the terrorist assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Harriri.

Outrage can be expressed in many ways. Public demonstrations are merely one of many different methods available to oppose terrorism.

Q: Why are none of the Palestinian terrorists Christian?

A: Robert Pape in his book, "Dying to Win - The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism," shows that between 1982 and 1986, 71 percent of the Lebanese suicide attackers were Christians and 21 percent Communists/Socialists. Pape states, "Of the 384 attackers for whom we have data, 166 or 43 percent were religious, while 218 or 57 percent were secular. Suicide terrorism is not overwhelmingly a religious phenomenon." It is a response to occupation.

Inquiring minds might also consider the suicide bombings carried out by non-Muslim groups such as the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, the religious orientation of the abortion clinic bomber or the depredations of Serbian forces during the Bosnian conflict.

Q: Why is only one of the 47 Muslim-majority countries a free country?

A: Muslim majority countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, and Turkey among many others having held free elections and being governed by popularly elected governments will dispute the charge that they are not "free."

Moreover, only in the past 50 years, have more than half of the Muslim-majority nations been freed from their European colonizers. Despite winning this freedom, most continued to be client states of their former colonizers who through the imposition of dictatorial regimes maintained control, some even to this day.

Opposition to such lack of freedom is generally Islamically-oriented. Lack of freedom in Muslim nations is in spite of Islam, not because of it.

Q: Why are so many atrocities committed and threatened by Muslims in the name of Islam?

A: All major faiths have people who commit, or have committed atrocities in the name of their religion. But no faith should be held responsible for the crimes of a few individuals. It seems Prager believes that any act by Muslims should be blamed on Islam. Just as we do not blame the Crusades or the Israeli atrocities on the faiths of Christianity and Judaism, we ask others to offer the same respect for our faith.

Again quoting Pape, "The world's leading practitioners of suicide terrorism are the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka - a secular, Marxist-Lennist group drawn from Hindu families."

Q: Why do countries governed by religious Muslims persecute other religions?

A: While there are areas of the Muslim world in which religious freedom is not granted to all citizens, it is unfair to claim that this phenomenon as a problem unique to Islam. Blaming persecution of minorities on Islam is akin to blaming slavery and segregation on Christianity. Choosing the Taliban as an example of religious intolerance in Islam is disingenuous, because the Taliban's religious perspective has been rejected by mainstream Muslim scholars and Muslims worldwide.

Every religious group has a responsibility to challenge hate by their fringe groups. It is unproductive to single out Muslims while remaining silent about the extremists of other faiths who vilify the faith of Islam without similar repudiation from Prager and others.

Dealing with the impact of war, poverty, racism, and injustice is our collective duty. To achieve solutions to these real problems we need voices that accentuate our common humanity, not use opportunistic smears of an entire faith to further their parochial agenda.

I would offer a challenge to Mr. Prager. Are you willing to enter into a real dialogue, not an exercise in one-upmanship, with mainstream Muslims? If so, CAIR stands ready to facilitate that dialogue, just as I did when I appeared recently on your program.

We await your response.

A Muslim perspective on illegal immigration

The Orange County Register
Saturday, April 15, 2006

Hussam Ayloush, 36, has been executive director of the Anaheim-based Council on American Islamic Relations, Southern California since 1997.

Q. What should our moral/ethical response be to the dramatic influx of illegal immigrants?

To answer this question, we need to address its impact on all its victims. There are three types of victims of illegal immigrations who all are real people who deserve from us fairness and dignity, as we demand it for ourselves.

Prophet Muhammad, as Prophets Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them) before him did, taught that one is not a true believer until they love for others what they love for themselves.

The first and most vulnerable victims are the children and dependents of undocumented immigrants who often had no say into their unfortunate situation. They should be offered all necessary medical, humanitarian, and educational services to ensure that they are not suffering nor marginalized in society, regardless of the decided legal or political solution to this problem.

Our greatness as a country comes from our compassion toward our most vulnerable members.

The second victims are the legal residents and citizens who see their tax money spread thin to finance over-burdened social, healthcare, and educational services. They are forced to compete for scarce jobs with those willing to accept a lower pay and to endure increased crime rates by the minority of illegal immigrants who choose to become involved in gangs and crimes.

The third and often forgotten victims are many of the illegal immigrants who opted to take the life risking journey, leaving their homes and families, hoping to earn a living to support their families. Many end up living in deplorable conditions in order to avoid detection.

At the end, regardless of how we choose to deal with their infractions against our laws, they deserve basic human rights which include due process, food assistance and medical care when necessary. An illegal person is still a human being.

While no one should condone anyone breaking our laws, we have to realize that unless the economic hardship in their home countries and our increasing demand for cheap unskilled labor are resolved, we will continue to hypocritically feed this influx while dehumanizing its victims.

The practical long term solutions could include a humane guest worker program, economic development projects in Latin America, higher penalties for businesses that employ undocumented workers, and amnesty laws to certain categories of illegal immigrants.

No matter what we do, we should never forget to be humane, compassionate, and fair to our fellow human beings.


Copyright 2006 The Orange County Register

Roundtable on controversial cartoon

Roundtable on cartoon depictions of Muhammad explores the responsibility that comes with freedom.

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Orange County Register


At least 11 people are dead in protests over the depiction of the prophet Muhammad - with bombs, with horns - in 12 Danish editorial cartoons.

No major demonstrations took place in Mideast and North African cities Thursday, suggesting the fervor may be easing. But it wasn't clear whether the calm would last. A test may come after weekly Muslim prayers today, when at least one large protest is planned, in Morocco.

On Thursday, the Register convened a discussion of the cartoons' impact.

Q: Why this depth of reaction among Muslims?

A: Hussam Ayloush: For most of the Muslim world, Islamically speaking, no prophet - Muhammad, Moses, Abraham - should be depicted. This is to avoid the idolization of a prophet. The depiction of Muhammad is a highly emotional topic for Muslims.

Still, the overwhelming majority of Muslims, their response has been very peaceful.

But when you put this in the context of the invasion of Iraq, the recent desecration of the Quran, the ongoing attacks against the prophet Muhammad by some extremist religious leaders in America itself - then these cartoons are like the straw that broke the camel's back.

You know, the perception is that the war on terror is becoming a war on Islam. We can debate that. But what matters here is the perception among the world's 1.3 billion Muslims.

So, many signs being carried in the Middle East said basically: "Not the prophet." We accepted other things, but the prophet is off-limits.

Unfortunately, some of those protests turned violent, turned very un-Islamic in our opinion, and that only serves to reinforce some images promoted in those cartoons.

Q: Was it wrong to publish these cartoons in a free press? Should religion be treated with kid gloves by the press?

A: Rabbi Lawrence Goldmark: My position is yes, we have the freedom to publish these cartoons. But one has to look at the big picture in this world where many, many Muslims feel there is this concerted war against the Muslim world. Why put more coal on the fire? One has to use common sense.

And frankly, I find the actions, especially of the leaders of Iran, to have a contest of cartoons vis-à-vis the Holocaust outrageous.

There are enough problems we are trying to work out and to say the Jewish world somehow controls all newspapers is outrageous. I think the leadership of the Muslim world has to say in so many words - enough. There are some valid criticisms, but these are invalid.

Ayloush: Actually most Muslim leaders, including the organization that I work for, have responded and rejected the violence, but specifically the drive to drag the Holocaust and the very tragic memory of the Holocaust into this whole conflict.

The Rev. John Millspaugh: All of us here would say we abhor violence and that the freedom of the press is essential in a democracy.

But as we are entering this global society, we're recognizing our neighbors are not just in our local communities. They are in other countries as well.

We can indeed hurt each other cross-culturally in ways we are only beginning to understand.

So what editorial principle does it serve to publish a picture which demonizes the founder of a major world faith - that makes that person to be a terrorist?

There are times we have to push the boundaries, using freedom of speech when it serves a greater principle. But I simply can't see what principle was served here.

Q: The Register hasn't published these cartoons although the debate over them is furious. Are we failing to provide readers the information they need?

A:Cathy Taylor: Actually, that's the key question - providing the information people need. We did a column on Sunday that was very hard-hitting. We did an editorial on Monday. Very hard-hitting. So, do the cartoons complete the story? Are they necessary?

One principle that we use in all cartoon selection, whether for our own staff cartoonist or the syndicated cartoons, is whether it is gratuitously insulting - or does it make a useful point.

Maybe if there had been something different about the Danish cartoons, that they needed to be run with the column to help explain it, we would have published them and defended that decision. But that was not so in this case.

Ayloush: Muslims understand freedom of speech.

You know, it's one thing to say that Eastern European governments during the communist era were banning freedoms and another to say that Eastern Europeans did not understand freedom.

Just because Muslims are denied freedoms by certain corrupt dictatorships and regimes does not mean they do not appreciate them or value them.

Q: Where do we go from here in dealing with these kinds of issues, with this current crisis?

A: Benjamin Hubbard:Maybe we can use this as an opportunity to educate, maybe provide the history of anti-Islamic feeling in the West. Back to Dante, the Crusades, western imperialism in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

What the Muslim world sees as the unfair support of Israel vis-à-vis the Palestinians - that's debatable, but at least that's the perception.

Add to these the invasion of Iraq. All have led to a very, very negative climate.

There has to be an attempt in higher education to really understand that Islam is a great faith, a great religion.

The more we can use that approach to educate, the more we can make some progress.

So. Calif. Muslims Form the Muslim-American Homeland Security Congress

Anaheim, CA (February 23, 2006) - Flanked by U.S. Congressmember Jane Harman, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca; a group of Muslims from Southern California came together and introduced the newly formed Muslim-American Homeland Security Congress (MAHSC). MAHSC is expected to develop into a nationwide network of local Muslim -American community, business and religious leaders.

"We hope that this organization will enhance the partnership and cooperation between the Muslim-American community and law enforcement, as well as, local and national elected officials, civic and inter-faith groups. We believe that the Muslim-Americans have a vital role to play in making America a better and more secure place to live in for all people," said Shakeel Syed, Executive Director of the Shura Council of Southern California.

"The security of our homeland is important to all Americans," Sheriff Lee Baca said. "So is the understanding and acceptance of our differences. The Muslim-American Homeland Security Congress will play a vital role in fostering education, understanding, communication and cooperation between Muslims and the general public toward the mutual goal of protecting and defending America and its entire people. Together, we will fight bigotry and work jointly to prevent terrorism."

"The key to winning the peace is in this room," said Congresswoman Jane Harman. "We cannot solve the problem of terrorism without the support of the Muslim-American community. I am proud to associate myself with this important organization."

The Congress will establish media related programs to educate the general public about the efforts of the Muslim American community to fight extremism and terrorism. It will also provide advocacy with government and interfaith leaders. The Congress will also create Youth Council.

The Muslim-American Homeland Security Congress includes the following members on its Executive Board, who were selected by the Congress, represented by dozens of local leaders and organizations: Ahmad Ali, Council of Pakistan American Affairs, Hussam Ayloush, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Dafer M. Dakhil, Omar Ibn Al Khattab Foundation, Tiffany Horton, Muslim Women's League, Dr. Jamil Momand, Islamic Center of Southern California, Imam Saadiq Saafir, Masjid Ibaadillah, Sireen Sawaf, Muslim Public Affairs Council, Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, Islamic Society of Orange County, and Shakeel Syed, Shura Council of Southern California.

Biography of: Hussam Ayloush

Biography of: Hussam Ayloush
Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Greater Los Angeles Area.

Hussam has been a lifelong human rights activist who is passionate about promoting  democratic societies, in the US and worldwide, in which all people, including immigrants, workers, minorities, and the needy enjoy freedom, justice, economic justice, respect, and equality.

Hussam holds a B.S. degree in Aerospace Engineering from University of Texas, Austin in 1994 and an M.B.A. degree from California State University, Fullerton in 1999.

He took his current position as Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Southern California in 1998. Hussam has appeared on local, national and international media programs such as CNN, MSNBC, KABC, KCBS, FOX, AL-JAZEERA, KTLA, PBS, KOCE, VOA, BBC, NPR, KNX, KFWB, and KFI. He has also been interviewed and has regularly written for a number of local and national newspapers such as the LA Times, The Press-Enterprise, The Daily Breeze, The Daily Bulletin, Orange County Register, the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Christian Science Monitor, Pasadena Weekly, Press Telegram, San Jose Mercury News, and various newswire services on American Islamic issues.

Mr. Ayloush is a regular speaker at many California colleges, schools, Islamic centers, churches, conferences, and universities. As someone whose own close family members include Muslims, Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox Christians, , Mormons and Jews, Hussam is an active member of various interfaith groups promoting pluralism, dialogue, understanding and cooperation among America's and our world's diverse faith communities. Hussam is a member of the West Coast Muslim-Catholic Dialogue and the Abrahamic Faith Peacemaking Initiative.

Hussam was recently elected as a delegate for the 60th Assembly District and Executive Board member to the CA Democratic Party (CDP) for a third term and earlier as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in 2012.  Through CAIR's work of education and engagement, Hussam maintains close contact with public officials and various law enforcement agencies to ensure a better understanding and treatment of Muslim. He serves on the board of the Muslim American Homeland Security Congress (MAHSC) (read news report). He also formerly served on the Multi-Cultural Advisory Council (MCAC) (read news report) which advises the Los Angeles bureau of the FBI.

Since its inception and until recently, Hussam proudly served on the board of directors of ACCESS California a leading non-profit organization providing social services to low income and under-served communities in Southern California.  In 2012, Ayloush completed eight years of serving on the national board of the Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ), a Chicago-based organization that campaigns to improve benefits and working conditions for low-wage workers.

He currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Orange County chapter of Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ). He is the past National Chairman of the Syrian American Council (SAC), an organization that advocates for democracy and human rights in Syria.

In late 2016, Hussam was chosen by the Orange County Register as one of the “100 Most Influential” individuals in Orange County.In 2017, Hussam sued President Donald Trump to challenge his “Muslim Ban” Executive Orders.

He currently lives in Corona with his wife and 5 children.

Council on American-Islamic Relations

CAIR is the largest national grassroots organization dedicated to presenting an Islamic perspective on issues of importance to the American public. CAIR was established to promote an accurate image of Islam and Muslims in America through media work, conferences and seminars, publications, action alerts, research, anti-discrimination work, government relations, and interfaith relations.

Click to read about CAIR's Mission, Vision, and Core Principles