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

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Speaking against wrongs, all wrongs

In response to my comment entitled "Why do some people insist on spreading hatred?", I received a comment from a local gentleman in which he states:
"The hatred you mention, while again blaming Christians, are more effectively laid at the doorstep of Islamic radicals who carry out the murders, and mass demonstrations of hatred - so clearly revealed in their faces. No wonder Islamophobia exists."
Here is my response to such views.

First, I do not blame Christians, nor any one single group. I strongly oppose the generalization of any one group. As for blaming Muslims for Islamophobia, that's a wrong argument. A whole group can not be held responsible for the actions of a misguided minority unless that group is supporting or condoning such actions, which is not the case for Muslims.

The greatest majority of Muslims have been and continue to be speaking against those who attempt to misuse the name of our religion to advance their extremist agendas. But we also are speaking against our government's policies which are facilitating the work of such extremists.

There are people who want a naive approach to combating extremism. They demand that we just criticize terrorists and not those who facilitate them recruiting efforts. They demand that we remain silent when we witness policies and actions that help radicalize young people. They criticize our demands that we fight the root causes of terrorism and not just its effects.

I am sorry. It does not work this way. My religion teaches me to speak against all forms of injustice and oppression, regardless who the perpetrators and victims might be.

I will continue to reject and speak against those murderous frauds who falsely misuse the name of my religion, but I will also continue to speak against policies and actions taken in my country's name and which spread division, violence, and injustice in other places of the world.

FBI Citizens' Academy

A few months ago, I received an invitation to participate in a 10-week FBI Citizen's Academy program. Through my work at CAIR, I get to interact closely with the local FBI office, mainly on cases involving hate crimes against Muslims or counter-terrorism. Actually, CAIR, along with several other Arab, Muslim, Iranian, and Sikh groups and leaders, is part of the Multi-Cultural Advisory Committee (MCAC) which advises the local FBI.

I agreed to join this Academy in the hope that it will help me better understand the FBI and its work. So far, I have attended 4 classes and I have really learned a lot from the information presented to our exclusive group of 30, made up of business, religious and civic leaders.

The relationship between the American Muslim community and the FBI has not always been smooth. I still remember a time, right after 9/11, when our office had to deal with daily reports from Muslims of alleged abuse and harassment by local FBI agents. The early relationship was rocky and built on mis-trust. Fortunately, the Muslim community and the FBI embarked on a genuine and serious effort to build mutual trust, understanding, and cooperation. After all, we all want to protect the country from all harm and we all want to ensure the protection of everyone's civil rights while doing so.

I am sure that there will always be times when disagreements and issues will arise, but at least we now have a constructive mechanism to address them as they happen.

As we invite the FBI to visit our Masajid/Mosques and ask FBI agents to undertake cultural diversity training about Islam to better understand and work with the Muslim community, it is incumbent on us to take advantage of every oppotunity to learn more about the FBI in order to develop a greater appreciation for the important work they do and to build a spirit of true partnership and cooperation. A cooperation that will ensure the safety of our nation and the respect and protection for every person in America.

I certainly recommend that leaders attend this academy.

For more information on the Citizens' Academy, visit:

My Ramadan thoughts


Area Muslims observe the month of Ramadan

Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

Members of the Islamic Society of Corona/Norco, along with Muslims around the world, are observing the month of Ramadan.
More than 1.4 billion Muslims from around the world observe Ramadan every year and among them are those who are observing it for the first time.

"Fasting is not a unique thing for Muslims, God said it was prescribed on you as it was prescribed on others before you," said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Southern California Council on American Islamic Relations.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim Calendar. It is believed that during the month of Ramadan, the revelation of the Quran began from God to the prophet Muhammed through the angel, Gabriel. Muslims fast for the entire month from sunrise to sunset and celebrate at the end of the month.

During the Ramadan fast, Muslims are not allowed to eat or drink and are also to restraint from other human pleasures during the day including sexual relations.
The purpose is to allow Muslims to concentrate on their relationship with God, said Ayloush.

Telling a lie, committing slander, making a false oath, denouncing anyone or being greedy will break the fast. All of these characteristics are not allowed at anytime but during Ramadan, committing it will break the fast.

During Ramadan, Muslims concentrate on their relationship with their creator and although Islam teaches Muslims to always have a close relationship with God, Ramadan helps Muslims devote even more time to strengthen the relationship they have with God, allowing them to get even closer, achieving a clear mind and concentrate on being spiritual, said Ayloush.

According to the Quran, those who are ill, traveling or find it difficult to fast, such as elderly men or women are allowed to break their fast. But the individual must feed a poor person for each of the days he or she could not fast.

Muslims break the fast at sunset. It is called Iftar, Arabic for breaking the fast. And traditionally, Iftar is done after praying. Muslim families, friends, neighbors and communities traditionally join together and break their fast. Mosques also serve Iftar for those who are on a journey or for anyone else, Muslim or non-Muslim.

The ISCN will be serving Iftar every Sunday evening during Ramadan for the local communities of Muslims and non-Muslims. On Oct. 15, the center will be hosting Iftar for the city officials, Corona-Norco Interfaith Association members, churches, neighbors, community members and all those who want to join in breaking bread together, said Ahsan Baseer, ISCN president.

Ramadan serves as a way to teach Muslims to be self-restrained. The idea is that if an individual can learn to control his or her physical needs, then he or she is more likely to control other needs, said Ayloush.

Ramadan is the fourth pillar of Islam, he said. The first is to declare that there is no deity but God and Muhammed is a messenger of God, the second is the prayer, the third is the "Zakat," charity and the fifth is the pilgrimage. Muslims are continuously engaging in peaceful activities, recharged spiritually and are reminded to be peaceful human beings who are in constant communication and connection with God, said Ayloush.

Ayloush said, Ramadan serves as an even bigger reminder and a spiritual connection with God. During Ramadan, Muslims spend hours upon hours of praying and reading the Quran.

Ayloush compared praying and Ramadan to the jobs many have. He said during the work day, employees conduct their work and repeating it gets them skillful at what they do. For Muslims, praying works the same way, he said. As Muslims pray throughout the day, they become more skillful in their connection with God. Ayloush said some employees get yearly training, which helps them stay up to date expanding more on their skills and knowledge. He described Ramadan as a yearly training for Muslims to become spiritually connected with God on an even deeper level.

Traditionally children are taught to fast until they gradually are capable of fasting the whole day. Ayloush's son Omar said he is able to fast the whole month of Ramadan. Omar said he learned after gradually fasting until noon, then fasting an additional hour every day. The 12-year-old said he initially thought it was impossible to fast, but now that he does it, he said he is proud and knows that God will reward him. Omar said he always remembers God, but he remembers him even more in Ramadan. Omar said he remembers all the privileges given to him by God -- the good family, the good health, the good life and the good home he has and he thanks God for it.

Ayloush's daughter, Marya, said she also gradually learned to fast. The 10-year-old said Ramadan brings her family together. They all break their fast at the same time, on the same table. Marya said she thinks of all the people who have so little and she prays for them to get what they need, especially the children, she said.

And for those who are practicing for the first time, the experience might be different.

Alvis Howard is a new Muslim who is practicing Ramadan for the first time. He said fasting helps him spend the time reflecting on what God has given him and his purpose in life.

"For me, it gets me into a better mental state," Howard said. "It allows me to be in tune spiritually and just puts me in a peace and a common state, just to be a better person."

After all, for Muslims, fasting is the least important part of what it is to practice the month of Ramadan, said Ayloush.

"The important part of Ramadan is to teach Muslims to be mindful of God," he said. "The food is the means to the more important goal of Ramadan, which is the consciousness of God in every aspect of our lives. It's just the training part to achieve what is called the mind and soul over matter."

- Mona Shadia, can be reached at (909) 483-8541 or by e-mail at mona.shadia@dailybulletin.com.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Why do some people insist on spreading hatred?

In response to a recent article that I forwarded to my list, one person responded by forwarding to me an article by a hardcore pro-Israel propagandist, Jeff Jacoby, in which he decries the silence of Muslims regarding the violent reaction to the Pope's comments.

I replied that this would have been a good article, only if it was true and factual.
Almost every Muslim scholar and leader decried the use of violence or threat in responding to the Pope's unfortunate and unwise comments. The killers of the nun in Somalia were arrested and will be punished, hopefully soon. Read my earlier comments on this issue:

Muslims also are collecting money to rebuild the 3 vandalized churches.

The question is do we want to see the truth or do we just want to spread false information in order to advance an agenda of division and hatred at all cost?
It seems that some, on all sides, are just eager to see our world blanketed by hatred, division and violence. I ask myself why?

The Al-Qaeda-type want to recruit more naive Muslims into their bloody and unholy war.
The Pat Robertson-type want to speed up Armageddon and the second coming of Christ.
The Jeff Jacoby-type and all other pro-Israel propagandists want to demonize Muslims in order to justify Israel's illegal and inhumane policies against Palestinians.

I refuse to let such people or groups drive us into the abyss. We all need to promote dialogue, mutual respect and understanding. We all need to speak out against extremism, bigotry, and injustice.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Muhammad's Sword

By Uri Avnery
Sep. 23, 2006

Since the days when Roman Emperors threw Christians to the lions, the relations between the emperors and the heads of the church have undergone many changes.

Constantine the Great, who became Emperor in the year 306 - exactly 1700 years ago - encouraged the practice of Christianity in the empire, which included Palestine. Centuries later, the church split into an Eastern (Orthodox) and a Western (Catholic) part. In the West, the Bishop of Rome, who acquired the title of Pope, demanded that the Emperor accept his superiority.

The struggle between the Emperors and the Popes played a central role in European history and divided the peoples. It knew ups and downs. Some Emperors dismissed or expelled a Pope, some Popes dismissed or excommunicated an Emperor. One of the Emperors, Henry IV, "walked to Canossa", standing for three days barefoot in the snow in front of the Pope's castle, until the Pope deigned to annul his excommunication.

But there were times when Emperors and Popes lived in peace with each other. We are witnessing such a period today. Between the present Pope, Benedict XVI, and the present Emperor, George Bush II, there exists a wonderful harmony. Last week's speech by the Pope, which aroused a world-wide storm, went well with Bush's crusade against "Islamofascism", in the context of the "Clash of Civilizations".

IN HIS lecture at a German university, the 265th Pope described what he sees as a huge difference between Christianity and Islam: while Christianity is based on reason, Islam denies it. While Christians see the logic of God's actions, Muslims deny that there is any such logic in the actions of Allah.

As a Jewish atheist, I do not intend to enter the fray of this debate. It is much beyond my humble abilities to understand the logic of the Pope. But I cannot overlook one passage, which concerns me too, as an Israeli living near the fault-line of this "war of civilizations".

In order to prove the lack of reason in Islam, the Pope asserts that the prophet Muhammad ordered his followers to spread their religion by the sword. According to the Pope, that is unreasonable, because faith is born of the soul, not of the body. How can the sword influence the soul?

To support his case, the Pope quoted - of all people - a Byzantine Emperor, who belonged, of course, to the competing Eastern Church. At the end of the 14th century, the Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus told of a debate he had - or so he said (its occurrence is in doubt) - with an unnamed Persian Muslim scholar. In the heat of the argument, the Emperor (according to himself) flung the following words at his adversary:

"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached".

These words give rise to three questions:
(a) Why did the Emperor say them?

(b) Are they true?

(c) Why did the present Pope quote them?

WHEN MANUEL II wrote his treatise, he was the head of a dying empire. He assumed power in 1391, when only a few provinces of the once illustrious empire remained. These, too, were already under Turkish threat.

At that point in time, the Ottoman Turks had reached the banks of the Danube . They had conquered Bulgaria and the north of Greece , and had twice defeated relieving armies sent by Europe to save the Eastern Empire . On May 29, 1453 , only a few years after Manuel's death, his capital, Constantinople (the present Istanbul ) fell to the Turks, putting an end to the Empire that had lasted for more than a thousand years.

During his reign, Manuel made the rounds of the capitals of Europe in an attempt to drum up support. He promised to reunite the church. There is no doubt that he wrote his religious treatise in order to incite the Christian countries against the Turks and convince them to start a new crusade. The aim was practical, theology was serving politics.

In this sense, the quote serves exactly the requirements of the present Emperor, George Bush II. He, too, wants to unite the Christian world against the mainly Muslim "Axis of Evil". Moreover, the Turks are again knocking on the doors of Europe, this time peacefully. It is well known that the Pope supports the forces that object to the entry of Turkey into the European Union.

IS THERE any truth in Manuel's argument?

The pope himself threw in a word of caution. As a serious and renowned theologian, he could not afford to falsify written texts. Therefore, he admitted that the Qur'an specifically forbade the spreading of the faith by force. He quoted the second Sura, verse 256 ( strangely fallible, for a pope, he meant verse 257) which says: "There must be no coercion in matters of faith".

How can one ignore such an unequivocal statement? The Pope simply argues that this commandment was laid down by the prophet when he was at the beginning of his career, still weak and powerless, but that later on he ordered the use of the sword in the service of the faith. Such an order does not exist in the Qur'an. True, Muhammad called for the use of the sword in his war against opposing tribes - Christian, Jewish and others - in Arabia, when he was building his state. But that was a political act, not a religious one; basically a fight for territory, not for the spreading of the faith.

Jesus said: "You will recognize them by their fruits." The treatment of other religions by Islam must be judged by a simple test: How did the Muslim rulers behave for more than a thousand years, when they had the power to "spread the faith by the sword"?

Well, they just did not.

For many centuries, the Muslims ruled Greece . Did the Greeks become Muslims? Did anyone even try to Islamize them? On the contrary, Christian Greeks held the highest positions in the Ottoman administration.

The Bulgarians, Serbs, Romanians, Hungarians and other European nations lived at one time or another under Ottoman rule and clung to their Christian faith. Nobody compelled them to become Muslims and all of them remained devoutly Christian.

True, the Albanians did convert to Islam, and so did the Bosniaks. But nobody argues that they did this under duress. They adopted Islam in order to become favorites of the government and enjoy the fruits.

In 1099, the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem and massacred its Muslim and Jewish inhabitants indiscriminately, in the name of the gentle Jesus. At that time, 400 years into the occupation of Palestine by the Muslims, Christians were still the majority in the country. Throughout this long period, no effort was made to impose Islam on them. Only after the expulsion of the Crusaders from the country, did the majority of the inhabitants start to adopt the Arabic language and the Muslim faith - and they were the forefathers of most of today's Palestinians.

THERE IS no evidence whatsoever of any attempt to impose Islam on the Jews. As is well known, under Muslim rule the Jews of Spain enjoyed a bloom the like of which the Jews did not enjoy anywhere else until almost our time. Poets like Yehuda Halevy wrote in Arabic, as did the great Maimonides. In Muslim Spain, Jews were ministers, poets, scientists. In Muslim Toledo, Christian, Jewish and Muslim scholars worked together and translated the ancient Greek philosophical and scientific texts. That was, indeed, the Golden Age. How would this have been possible, had the Prophet decreed the "spreading of the faith by the sword"?

What happened afterwards is even more telling. When the Catholics re-conquered Spain from the Muslims, they instituted a reign of religious terror. The Jews and the Muslims were presented with a cruel choice: to become Christians, to be massacred or to leave. And where did the hundreds of thousand of Jews, who refused to abandon their faith, escape? Almost all of them were received with open arms in the Muslim countries. The Sephardi ("Spanish") Jews settled all over the Muslim world, from Morocco in the west to Iraq in the east, from Bulgaria (then part of the Ottoman Empire) in the north to Sudan in the south. Nowhere were they persecuted. They knew nothing like the tortures of the Inquisition, the flames of the auto-da-fe, the pogroms, the terrible mass-expulsions that took place in almost all Christian countries, up to the Holocaust.

WHY? Because Islam expressly prohibited any persecution of the "peoples of the book". In Islamic society, a special place was reserved for Jews and Christians. They did not enjoy completely equal rights, but almost. They had to pay a special poll-tax, but were exempted from military service - a trade-off that was quite welcome to many Jews. It has been said that Muslim rulers frowned upon any attempt to convert Jews to Islam even by gentle persuasion - because it entailed the loss of taxes.

Every honest Jew who knows the history of his people cannot but feel a deep sense of gratitude to Islam, which has protected the Jews for fifty generations, while the Christian world persecuted the Jews and tried many times "by the sword" to get them to abandon their faith.

THE STORY about "spreading the faith by the sword" is an evil legend, one of the myths that grew up in Europe during the great wars against the Muslims - the reconquista of Spain by the Christians, the Crusades and the repulsion of the Turks, who almost conquered Vienna. I suspect that the German Pope, too, honestly believes in these fables. That means that the leader of the Catholic world, who is a Christian theologian in his own right, did not make the effort to study the history of other religions.

Why did he utter these words in public? And why now?

There is no escape from viewing them against the background of the new Crusade of Bush and his evangelist supporters, with his slogans of "Islamofascism" and the "Global War on Terrorism" - when "terrorism" has become a synonym for Muslims. For Bush's handlers, this is a cynical attempt to justify the domination of the world's oil resources. Not for the first time in history, a religious robe is spread to cover the nakedness of economic interests; not for the first time, a robbers' expedition becomes a Crusade.

The speech of the Pope blends into this effort. Who can foretell the dire consequences?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

If Americans Knew

This is a must watch. A short few minutes that will explain the threat that Israel, Palestine and the US are all facing.

Learn more. Visit: http://www.ifamericansknew.org/

CNN reporter dares to ask questions

This was on Europe's CNN broadcast. It is a couple of months old, but worth watching. However, don't expect it soon here on American media.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Cardinal Mahony, Muslim Leaders Discuss Pope Benedict's References to Islam

Leaders Reaffirm Bonds of Friendship Between Their Communities, Pledge Future Cooperation

(Los Angeles - 9/21/06) -- Muslim American leaders of Southern California met earlier today with Cardinal Roger Mahony to discuss recent statements by Pope Benedict which referenced Islam, and to reaffirm the strong bonds of friendship that have existed between the Catholic and Muslim communities of Los Angeles for several decades.

The Muslim leaders recalled the hurt that many Muslims felt when Pope Benedict quoted a 14th Century Byzantine emperor who stated that Islam was spread by the sword. The Muslim leaders also said that they welcomed the Pope’s subsequent statements clarifying his position on Muslim-Catholic relations. The delegation also condemned the violent acts that targeted Christian churches and people in the wake of the pope’s initial speech.

Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, Chairman of the Islamic Shura Council of the Southern California, recalled “Nostra Aetate,” the Second Vatican Council’s document on the Church’s relations with non-Christians, in urging Muslims and Catholics to re-double their efforts to work more closely together on moral, social and civil rights issues. Muslim and Catholic leaders have collaborated on issues of health care, education, immigration and the alleviation of poverty. Over the years, Catholic-Muslim dialogue in Los Angeles has resulted in the publication of two joint documents: “Religion and the U.S. Constitution,” and a document on interfaith marriage.

“Los Angeles is the capital of interfaith relations and of diversity,” said Dr. Maher Hathout, Vice-Chair of the Shura Council.

Both Cardinal Mahony and the Muslim leaders agreed to create more opportunities at the local level to educate Catholics and Muslims in Southern California about one another and the bonds of friendship and cooperation between the two faiths. Cardinal Mahony said the two religions should seize this “teachable moment” to affirm commonalities and increase dialogue in all possible areas.

Muslim leaders and Cardinal Mahony discussed together a variety of opportunities for deepening contacts and promoting friendship between Muslims and Catholics in Los Angeles, including the “twinning” of parishes and mosques to promote interfaith understanding; a visit by Cardinal Mahony to a local mosque; and, a joint Catholic-Muslim delegation from Los Angeles that would visit Muslim and Christian communities in the Middle East, then visit the Vatican.

The Muslim American delegation visiting Cardinal Mahony at the Archdiocesan Catholic Center in Los Angeles, included: Dr. Muzammil Siddiqui, Chairman of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California; Dr. Maher Hathout, Vice-Chair of the Shura; Moustafa al-Qazwini, Imam of Islamic Educational Center of Orange County; Ahmed Sakr, Islamic Educational Center; Shakeel Syed, Executive Director of the Shura Council; Hussam Ayloush, Executive Director of the Southern California of the Council on American Islamic Relations; and Salam Al-Marayati, Executive Director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. Also attending the meeting was Father Alexei Smith, Director of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

CAIR Asks Muslims to Help Repair Damaged Churches

Palestinian churches damaged following Pope's comments on Islam

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 9/20/2006) - The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today called on Muslims in America and worldwide to donate to help repair Palestinian churches damaged following recent remarks by Pope Benedict XVI perceived as critical of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.

CAIR is urging Muslims to help repair the churches in the West Bank and Gaza by sending a donation to the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. SEE: http://www.cnewa.org/ (Earmark donations for: "Palestine Damaged Churches")

"Our campaign is designed to send the message that attacks on any houses of worship are not acceptable and will not be tolerated," said CAIR-Tampa Executive Director Ahmed Bedier.

In a statement released following the Pope's remarks, CAIR called for increased dialogue and outreach efforts aimed at building better relations between Christianity and Islam. CAIR's statement read in part: "Let us all continue the interfaith efforts promoted by the late Pope John Paul II, who made great strides in bringing Muslims and Catholics together for the common good."

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Cute kittens looking for a new home

Our cat gave birth to a new 6 beautiful kittens. Yes, again. Okay, okay, we will get her fixed.

We now have 6 new kittens that need new loving homes. We are keeping the mother and the older sister, from the earlier batch 4 months ago.

The kittens are so cute, but 8 cats at home is way too much. They are 5 weeks old.
See the photos.

Just let me know how many you like to have.

Send me an email at:

CA Muslims to Meet with Cardinal Mahony

An association representing 70 mosques in the region also seeks a convening of bishops.
Bettye Wells Miller, Press-Enterprise, 9/18/06

Leaders of Southern California's Muslim community will meet this week with Cardinal Roger Mahony in Los Angeles to voice concern about controversial remarks Pope Benedict XVI made in Germany last week and to reinforce an interfaith relationship some leaders characterized as positive.

Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, said leaders attending the meeting also will ask the cardinal to convene Catholic bishops in the region to further encourage interfaith discussions. The Shura Council is an association of more than 70 mosques in Southern California.

A spokesman for Mahony confirmed that the cardinal will hold a private meeting with Muslim leaders this week. . .

Hussam Ayloush, a Corona resident and executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Southern California chapter, said American Muslims and Catholics have had a good relationship based on mutual understanding and cooperation.

The meeting with Cardinal Mahony is not intended to debate the theology of the pope's remarks, he said.

"The point is to reinforce our friendship, that we oppose any language or action that tends to shake that friendship and alliance," Ayloush said.

Ayloush and others condemned violent reactions to the pope's address.

"Someone has to take a step back and diffuse the tension," he said. "We cannot afford to be pulled away from dialogue and mutual understanding. The other option is mistrust, hatred and immoral acts of violence."

Monday, September 18, 2006

So what about the Pope's "apology"?

Pope Benedict XVI said during the traditional Angelus blessing from the balcony of his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo outside Rome:

"I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my
address ... which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims"

Was that an apology? Probably not. The Pope was expressing regret that Muslims were offended by his comments, but he was not apologizing for the comments themselves.

So what do we do now? I believe that regardless of how the Pope chooses to address the damage caused by those comments and regardless of his intentions because only God knows about intentions, we should all be focusing on damage control. Muslims should accept the "regrets" from the Pope and forgive. It is a reminder that we still have a long way to eduacte each other about our respective faiths.

We, Muslims and Catholics alike, should look beyond this isolated and unfortunate incident and remember that what brings us together is much greater. The legacy of late Pope John Paul II has helped foster a culture and momentum of friendship, cooperation, and mutual respect between the world's two largest religions. We should not allow for one negative incident to make us forget all the good that has joined us together. We should not let the clouds of anger and mistrust cover our world. We have no choice but to continue working together to promote friendship and cooperation because the other choice is not only ugly, but it is also un-Islamic and un-Christian.

I take the opportunity to voice by utmost disgust and dismay, as a Muslim, with those who chose to express their legitimate disagreement with the Pope through the un-Islamic and immoral acts of violence. Correcting misperceptions about Islam cannot be achieved by killing nuns, attacking churches, or burning effigies. Such acts are in complete contradiction of Islamic teachings and serve nothing but to widen the gap and polarization in our wounded world. We need bridge builders and peacemakers and not people who add fuel to the fire.

Let's learn from the past and focus on a brighter future.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Response to comments by Pope Benedict XVI

A response that involves violent protests, attacks on Christians or their churches, or a counter attack on the Christian faith is un-Islamic and certainly not morally acceptable. I call upon fellow Muslims to follow the example of Prophet Muhammad who responded to those who abused him by forgiving them and assuming that they are doing so because they did not truly know him. He focused on educating those people and showing kindness to them.

The best response to the Pope's inaccurate and divisive remarks is for Muslims and Catholics worldwide to increase dialogue and outreach efforts aimed at building better relations between Christianity and Islam.

We can not continue to live in the shadow of the past conflicts such as Spain or the Crusades. It is time we move forward by learning from the mistakes of the past. It is time we use the positive teachings common in both religions to bring both communities closer. It is time to build mutual trust and understanding. It is time we work together to tackle the serious threats of ignorance, extremism, poverty, rights of immigrants, rights of workers, wars, occupation, racism, and all other social ills.

We should not be pulled into this nonsense clash of civilizations by fueling it with inflammatory comments. It is not acceptbale when a Muslim does it and it is not acceptable when a Christian does it either, especially those in leadership position.

If religious leaders refuse to lead, then it is up to us, the followers, to lead humanity into peace and dialogue. Let's leave a better world for our children.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Reaching Out to Build Trust

U.S. Muslims' efforts help, strife abroad doesn't, leaders say

Monday, September 11, 2006
The Press-Enterprise

In the days after the Sept. 11 attacks, Mustafa Kuko advised Inland Muslims to reach out to their neighbors and let them know they are Americans, too.

Muslims in the Inland area and in Southern California have held open houses at their mosques, invited visitors to community dinners during the holy month of Ramadan, cooperated in interfaith projects and answered pointed questions about Islam in classrooms, churches and synagogues.

Five years later, Kuko, director of the Islamic Center of Riverside, and other leading Muslims in Southern California say those efforts have allayed some fears about their religion and generally improved relations with non-Muslims in California.

But despite their best efforts, the perception persists worldwide that Islam is a religion of violence, a view that Kuko and other leaders said puts American Muslims in a tough position: How can they win the trust of neighbors who are continually frightened by news of terrorism by Muslims?

Hussam Ayloush, a Corona resident and executive director of the Southern California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said he doesn't like it when people are anti-American, just as he doesn't like it when Americans ask him what is wrong with Islam.

"I am all for isolating and challenging fanatic, violent Muslims, but most Muslims here are interested in being able to live the American dream: to raise a family, to have a good job and to have good relations with their neighbors.

"We're as American as apple pie," Ayloush said.

Bush's 'fascist' talk alienates Muslims

A letter to the editor
By Hussam Ayloush, Press Enterprise, September 6, 2006

William R. Snaer [Call our Enemy What it is: Islamofascist, Aug. 27] is mistaken.

Language can be an important tool in our fight against terrorism as well as in winning the hearts and minds of 1.3 billion Muslims. Immediately after the U.K. officials foiled an alleged terror plot involving transport of liquid explosives on planes, President George W. Bush held a press conference and stated, "this nation is at war with Islamic fascists."

Needless to say, it was offensive and erroneous. Islam teaches its followers to promote the values of peace, justice, human brotherhood, and positive cooperation among nations. These teachings culminated in a rich Islamic civilization, the likes of which are still visible in Spain, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

To link Islam with fascism due to the acts of a small minority falsely claiming a link to Islam is inaccurate, unfair, and counter-productive.

During World War II, there were priests who blessed German and Italian soldiers' efforts to spread fascism, but we never talked about Christian fascism, and rightly so, because linking Judaism, Christianity or Islam and their good teachings with the evil of fascism is an oxymoron.

Bush's ill-conceived statement, now repeated by a number of right-wing politicians and columnists, unfairly contributes to an increasing tide of anti-Muslim sentiment in America.

Moreover, Bush's anti-Islam rhetoric offends and alienates the very Muslim masses that we strongly need in order to isolate the fringe minority of violent extremists. Let's not forget that those who tipped British officials off to the alleged terror plot were Muslims. Do we really want to send Muslims a message that this war is actually a war on Islam? Do we really want to play into the hands of extremists who so far have been despised and rejected by the overwhelming majority of Muslims?

Those who insist on offending and demonizing one fourth of our world's population fall under one of two categories. They are either Islamophobes who have found joy in a new slur or, more alarming, are deliberately seeking a wider and longer conflict between our country and the Muslim world.

Extremism and hatred, on all sides, are the fuel of terrorism and violence. Our best approach to containing terrorism is through a culture of mutual respect, trust, and dialogue. The more prevailing this culture becomes, the more isolated extremists are going to be.

As for our language, we should call the enemy what it is - extremist, radical, terrorist, fascist.

Hussam Ayloush is the executive director of Council on American-Islamic Relations, Southern California chapter, and is a resident of Corona.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

American Muslims Five Years Later - PBS Show

VIDEO: AMERICAN MUSLIMS FIVE YEARS LATER PBS Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, 9/8/06

Watch video:

BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: After the attack by Islamic radicals five years ago, American Muslims feared violent reprisals against them.
Those did not happen, but today many Muslims in this country say they live under the specter of suspicion. They feel their neighbors don't trust them and their government threatens them, as Saul Gonzalez reports. . .

HUSSAM AYLOUSH (Executive Director, CAIR Southern California): In 2001, when the American Muslim community was introduced to the FBI was when we were being suspected as a whole community. Muslims were visited at 3:00 a.m, They were visited in their home and their schools.

GONZALEZ: Hussam Ayloush is the executive director of the Southern California office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a civil rights and advocacy group. Although Muslim Americans still have concerns about how the FBI investigates their community, Ayloush says much has improved through continued interaction and improved communication.

Mr. AYLOUSH: Things have changed, and I have to admit to that. The positive atittude from the leadership of the FBI on the national level, but also on the local level, the openness, the agreement to work with the Muslim community as partners rather than suspects has made a big difference. Even when someone is being questioned, there is a high level of respect that is being presented and reflected in the attitude of the FBI towards Muslims.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Hussam Ayloush Profile: Bridging the Gap by Educating about Islam


Corona man vows to educate others and clarify misperceptions of Muslims

By MONA SHADIA, Staff Writer
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Hussam Ayloush found himself at square one. The Corona resident was one of the founders of the Southern California Council on American Islamic Relations, and had spent years working to clarify misperceptions about Islam.
Before Sept. 11, some people knew about Islam and respected it, he said, but those who didn't, didn't feel it affected them.

Before Sept. 11, Ayloush said, ‘‘Muslims were misunderstood, but not feared.''

Then, on Sept. 11, 2001, four airplanes were hijacked by extremists; one crash landed in the fields of Pennsylvania, one destroyed part of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and two flew into the World Trade Center twin towers, leveling the architectural wonders and killing thousands.

‘‘I think America passed a test that many countries wouldn't have passed,'' Ayloush said. ‘‘People took a deep breath, and didn't say, ‘Kill Muslims.''

He admitted there were shows of violence -- some mosques were vandalized and Muslims attacked -- but, in other countries, he said, the reaction would have been much more savage.

Ayloush said America's shift was a more subtle, psychological change.

‘‘There's no doubt that there is a minority of Muslim extremists with a very narrow interpretation and it's also rejected by the overwhelming majority of Muslims,'' Ayloush said. ‘‘Here are (also) ideological or political extremists in America who speak in the same language and who fuel the concept of a clash of civilization.''

Tahra Goraya, president of CAIR southern California said, since Sept. 11, the organization's goals of educating the public and encouraging dialogue in the community have become even more vital.

‘‘CAIR's focus pre-9/11 was mainly to educate Americans about Islam and Muslims and we found ourselves having to redouble our efforts after 9/11,'' she said. ‘‘In many ways, it felt like we had to start all over in dispelling misconceptions; we found ourselves working overtime.''

‘‘As a result CAIR Southern California, under the great leadership of Hussam, has been able to successfully build bridges of understanding and dialogue by taking a multisector approach through partnerships with law enforcement, interfaith communities, civil rights advocates, and the media.''

This cooperation is vital, she said, to the CAIR reaching it's goals.

‘‘It is only by working together that we can achieve greater acceptance and understanding of each other in our society, and to that end, CAIR has been diligently advocating and working to accomplish greater understanding of not only American Muslims but all people,'' she said.

When Ayloush came the United States, he said, it was with plans to get a college education and then go back to his country to do his part to help rebuild it.

Born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, Ayloush grew up in a large Muslim family that was diverse, with interfaith marriages bringing Christian and Jewish families into the mix.

His childhood spanned the civil war in Lebanon. By the end of the war, he was 18 years old, ready to graduate from high school and start college.

‘‘It was tough, you don't live your childhood. Most of us didn't see most of Lebanon until the end of the civil war,'' Ayloush said. ‘‘As kids, it didn't bother us, we thought this is life.''

He came to the United States to attend the University of Texas' school of aerospace engineering. During college, Ayloush lived with an American family. He said the thing that struck him was how alike his family in Lebanon and this American family were.

‘‘They were nothing different from my own family. It was my first eye-opener -- people could be the same,'' he said.

When faced with questions about Islam in college, he said he felt the questions were legitimate and he needed to research them and give the proper answers.

Quickly, Ayloush's goals changed. He was no longer working with the sole purpose of graduating and moving back to Lebanon -- that had changed as he began to develop a bond with Americans. Now he wanted to help dispel misperceptions and bridge the gap that exists between his culture and the American culture.

‘‘Home is where you feel at home. I feel at home,'' said Ayloush, who joined the Muslim Student Union in college and began working in the community to break down communication barriers between Muslims and non-Muslims..

After moving to California with his wife and ‘‘soulmate,'' Arwa, with whom he now has a son, two girls and one girl on the way, Ayloush started graduate school at Cal State Fullerton, but he continued the work he had begun in Texas, speaking about Islam in churches and synagogues and giving sermons at mosques.

When he and some friends heard about a newly formed organization focused on enhancing the understanding of Islam in the United States, he knew he was meant to be involved.

Now, CAIR is the largest nonprofit Muslim civil rights organization in North America, with chapters around the United States, and Canada. CAIR's mission, according to its Web site, is ‘‘to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.''

When the Southern California chapter had grown to the point of needing a full-time employee, Ayloush was offered the job. He consulted his wife, who he said ‘‘has always been morally and emotionally supportive,'' and took on the position of executive director, secretary, communications director and everything in between. It was hard, but his ‘‘heart was with it,'' he said.

Now, Ayloush said, CAIR has its work cut out for it. Ayloush said, to be able to eliminate ‘‘Islamophobia,'' he must first speak against, protest and oppose extremism within.

He said Osama bin Laden has damaged Islam's image, but the key to defeating him is to work with Muslims to do so. After Sept. 11, Ayloush said, instead of working with Muslims to defeat bin Laden, Muslims were rejected and alienated.

‘‘We did not just alienated them,'' said Ayloush, referring to the current administration. ‘‘We actually enraged them with anti-Muslim rhetorics and failed policies.''

He said extremism can be found anywhere.

‘‘I firmly believe both extremists are the two sides of one coin, they live off and need each other,'' He said. ‘‘Bin Laden would not last a day if there wasn't someone on the other side fueling and matching his hatred. They justify each other's existence.''

Ayloush said educating young people is a key to reaching the goal of bridging the gap.

‘‘The way the average people are going to change their minds will be through old fashion one-on-one interaction with a real flesh blood Muslim,'' he said. ‘‘(It will be then) that the average person (will) see another image that will counter the image of the hijacker.''

US Muslims Say They Face Prejudice, Growing Acceptance

Voice of America (VOA)
By Mike O'Sullivan
Los Angeles, 08 September 2006

Listen to O'Sullivan report (Real Media)

American Muslims say they have faced increased suspicion since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. But some say the dialogues that began after those events opened new lines of communication. Mike O'Sullivan has more from Los Angeles, where local Muslim leaders spoke with reporters.

Every American Muslim has faced questions since the attacks, some of the questions innocent, others rude or even hostile. Edina Lekovic of the Muslim Public Affairs Council is a European Muslim whose parents came from Montenegro in the former Yugoslavia. Her features are Western, but she is visible as a Muslim because of her headscarf. She says that since 2001, explaining her faith has become a full-time job. "The questions that I hear on a daily basis, regardless of the setting, are anything from 'Why do you wear that thing on your head?' to 'Why don't you go back to your country?' to 'Why are your people killing our people?," she said.

She says most of the questions are based on misconceptions about Islam and its adherents.

Lekovic appeared with other Muslim leaders at a news conference Thursday, joined by leaders from the Christian, Jewish and Sikh faiths, and representatives of law enforcement agencies.

All spoke against the prejudice, and the occasional hate crimes, that have been directed toward Muslims since the 9-11 attacks. They cited a recent survey showing that four in 10 Americans admit to harboring anti-Muslim feelings.

Hussam Ayloush of the Council on American-Islamic Relations has seen that prejudice, but believes it is superficial and temporary. He says history suggests that Islam is being integrated into American life.

"We look at the experiences of previous immigrant communities, religious or ethnic, whether it's the Jewish community, the Catholic community, or Irish, Italians and others, and Latinos today. All of them had to go through a phase of rejection, mistrust, acceptance, and integration. Everybody went through the same phases. And I think we are between the phase of some kind of mistrust and acceptance," he said.

He says even people who admit to anti-Muslim prejudice are willing to talk and listen. He adds that since 2001, American Muslims are also reaching out in dialogue, and says like other Americans, they have strong feelings. "But at the end of the day, we go back and say, OK, give me your case, make your case, convince me otherwise," he said.

He says honest debate creates bonds of trust, despite disagreements.

Edina Lekovic says that as non-Muslim Americans get to know their Muslim neighbors, both sides become more open. "Your neighbors, who happen to be named Khadija or Ali, they go to the grocery store, they go to the doctor, they go to the library, they vote, they participate in educational settings just like anybody else," he said.

The Los Angeles Muslim leaders say that Islam is a tolerant faith, concerned with building bridges. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, they say getting that message out has become more important.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Hope over hate

Prejudice against Muslims shows who we really are
Pasadena Weekly, September 7, 2006
By Hussam Ayloush

After 9/11 I could see the looks, especially when I was with my wife, who wears a head dress. I know it exists. Polls show us many people do hold feelings of prejudice toward Muslims.

Deep inside, people are saying we should subject Muslims to extra searches at airports; some would rather not have a Muslim neighbor. Fortunately, only a small number of people take action based on those feelings.

The growing anti-Islamic sentiment in this country was reflected in the unfortunate use of the offensive term “Islamic fascist” by the president. Regardless of his intentions, and no one can truly know another’s intentions, what matters is it was perceived by Muslims as an unfortunate link between the peaceful teachings of Islam and the evil ideology of fascism.

The concern we have is that such rhetoric alienates the very same people whose hearts and minds we are trying to win — the 1.3 billion Muslims in the world whom we need as partners to alienate and challenge the minority of extremists among them.

The looks and the comments you sometimes hear are people making the assumption that Muslims do not belong in America. Compared to the amount of positive remarks and gestures I’ve received from people, those negative incidents are insignificant. I try not to dwell on the negative few. I’d rather celebrate the positive many.

The source of most hatred and prejudice is ignorance, and the only way to fight that is through education. That, unfortunately, takes time and patience. I do have faith that this state of misperception of Islam will come to and end, judging by our country’s history toward all other religious and ethnic minorities.

Yes, there has been an increase of Islamaphobia and an increase in the number of hate incidents against Muslims. However, the bright side of this tragic increase of anti-Muslim sentiment provides and opportunity for Muslims to reach out to their fellow Americans and show them who they truly are and what they truly believe.

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

Local Muslims Want Tolerance on 9/11 Anniversary

CBS News -
September 7, 2006

(CBS) LOS ANGELES Local Muslim leaders called for more tolerance and dialogue Thursday, four days before the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Tolerance of Muslims will improve as more people learn about Islam and as Muslims better integrate into American society, according to the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

"America is a country of immigrants. It has always welcomed immigrants," Hussam Ayloush said. "We're dealing with the regular problems of integration of immigrant communities, but also we're dealing with the external factors of the war in Iraq, the war on terrorism."

Since September 2001, local Muslim groups have worked with law enforcement to educate the public on Islamic traditions and prevent another terrorist attack, Edina Lekovic with the Muslim Public Affairs Council said.

"Muslims do not want to be seen as, and are not working to be, part of the problem. They are working to be part of the solution," Lekovic said.

"That should not be taken at the cost of their own civil liberties or their own rights to free speech. It should be in cooperation with that and for the betterment of society."

Authorities could not provide specific examples of how partnerships with the Muslim community have prevented any attacks.

"The key is dialogue," FBI Special Agent Warren Bamford, who works in counter-terrorism said. "Once the dialogue is in place, then there are opportunities that do arise."

Dialogue also helps in addressing hate crimes, according to Los Angeles Police Department Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell.

"Ignorance has created fear," McDonnell said. "Hate crimes cannot and will not be tolerated."

According to the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission, hate crimes against Muslims or people from a Middle Eastern background peaked in 2001 with 188 incidents. In 2002, that figure dropped to 17.

In 2003, there were seven hate crimes directed toward Muslims, and in 2004 there were eight hate crimes committed against Muslims in Los Angeles County.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Who is Prophet Muhammad?

Learn about this year-long initiative offering people of all faiths a FREE book or DVD on the life and legacy of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

Ayloush comments on Adam Gadahn's latest videotape

Inland leaders criticize message

REACTION: A priest and an American-Islamic relations advocate say the tape distorts the religion.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006
The Press-Enterprise

A videotaped message by a former Inland area man now working for al-Qaida urging Americans to convert to Islam was a cheap attempt to manipulate a legitimate political view in this country, an advocate for better American-Islamic relations said Saturday.

Suspected al-Qaida activist Adam Yehiye Gadahn, who was raised on a goat farm in Winchester, delivered a videotaped lecture on Islam and told American military members they are fighting President Bush's "crusades."

Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Southern California office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, criticized the message and repeated the group's theme of rejecting violence and extremism.

"He fails to see or to realize that just because two-thirds of Americans disagree with the administration's war in Iraq, it does not mean at all that we would be appealed by al-Qaida's tactics and ideology," Ayloush said about Gadahn.

The almost hourlong video appeared on an Islamic militant Web site Saturday and included footage of al-Qaida's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri.

Ayloush, a Corona resident who is familiar with Gadahn's past in the Inland Empire, said in a telephone interview that he watched some of the video clips Saturday. He touched on Gadahn's religious overtones.

"We reject for anyone to drive the name of our religion into their extremist ideology," Ayloush said. "We remind Mr. Gadahn, as well as Mr. Al-Zawahri, that the best way to invite people to Islam is by not practicing an extremist interpretation of it, but rather by leading by the example of the prophet.

"That example is one of tolerance and mercy to mankind,
" Ayloush said.

After celebrating Mass on Saturday night at St. Catherine of Alexandria, the Rev. Gene Sabio, a native of the Philippines, told a reporter that it is his understanding that terrorism and Islam are incompatible.

"There is Christian and Muslim dialogue going on in many countries," Sabio said outside the Riverside church. "There is Islamic and Christian dialogue in the Philippines. As far as I see it, Christianity and Islam are not against each other.

"Christianity, Islam and Judaism all have the same roots, going all the way back to Abraham," Sabio said. "People need to start talking to each other and see points where they agree, and respect differences."

It is the second time in less than two months that Gadahn has appeared in an al-Qaida video, but his family has said little to the media. They could not be reached for comment Saturday.

In July, Gadahn appeared in a five-minute al-Qaida video. Reached at his 40-acre Winchester farm after that video aired, Gadahn's father, Philip, declined to say much about his son.

"He detached from our family almost 10 years ago," Philip Gadahn said in the short July interview. "And we don't know anything about him now. We haven't heard anything."

Staff writer Imran Vittachi contributed to this report.

Reach John Welsh at 951-368-9474 or jwelsh@PE.com

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Rosa Brooks: Criticize Israel? You're an Anti-Semite!

How can we have a real discussion about Mideast peace if speaking honestly about Israel is out of bounds?
Rosa Brooks
Los Angeles Times
September 1, 2006

EVER WONDER what it's like to be a pariah?

Publish something sharply critical of Israeli government policies and you'll find out. If you're lucky, you'll merely discover that you've been uninvited to some dinner parties. If you're less lucky, you'll be the subject of an all-out attack by neoconservative pundits and accused of rabid anti-Semitism.

This, at least, is what happened to Ken Roth. Roth — whose father fled Nazi Germany — is executive director of Human Rights Watch, America's largest and most respected human rights organization. (Disclosure: I have worked in the past as a paid consultant for the group.) In July, after the Israeli offensive in Lebanon began, Human Rights Watch did the same thing it has done in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Bosnia, East Timor, Sierra Leone, Congo, Uganda and countless other conflict zones around the globe: It sent researchers to monitor the conflict and report on any abuses committed by either side.

It found plenty. On July 18, Human Rights Watch condemned Hezbollah rocket strikes on civilian areas within Israel, calling the strikes "serious violations of international humanitarian law and probable war crimes." So far, so good. You can't lose when you criticize a terrorist organization.

But Roth and Human Rights Watch didn't stop there. As the conflict's death toll spiraled — with most of the casualties Lebanese civilians — Human Rights Watch also criticized Israel for indiscriminate attacks on civilians. Roth noted that the Israeli military appeared to be "treating southern Lebanon as a free-fire zone," and he observed that the failure to take appropriate measures to distinguish between civilians and combatants constitutes a war crime.

The backlash was prompt. Roth and Human Rights Watch soon found themselves accused of unethical behavior, giving aid and comfort to terrorists and anti-Semitism. The conservative New York Sun attacked Roth (who is Jewish) for having a "clear pro-Hezbollah and anti-Israel bias" and accused him of engaging in "the de-legitimization of Judaism, the basis of much anti-Semitism." Neocon commentator David Horowitz called Roth a "reflexive Israel-basher … who, in his zest to pillory Israel at every turn, is little more than an ally of the barbarians." The New Republic piled on, as did Alan Dershowitz, who claimed Human Rights Watch "cooks the books" to make Israel look bad. And writing in the Jewish Exponent, Jonathan Rosenblum accused Roth of resorting to a "slur about primitive Jewish bloodlust."

Anyone familiar with Human Rights Watch — or with Roth — knows this to be lunacy. Human Rights Watch is nonpartisan — it doesn't "take sides" in conflicts. And the notion that Roth is anti-Semitic verges on the insane.

But what's most troubling about the vitriol directed at Roth and his organization isn't that it's savage, unfounded and fantastical. What's most troubling is that it's typical. Typical, that is, of what anyone rash enough to criticize Israel can expect to encounter. In the United States today, it just isn't possible to have a civil debate about Israel, because any serious criticism of its policies is instantly countered with charges of anti-Semitism. Think Israel's tactics against Hezbollah were too heavy-handed, or that Israel hasn't always been wholly fair to the Palestinians, or that the United States should reconsider its unquestioning financial and military support for Israel? Shhh: Don't voice those sentiments unless you want to be called an anti-Semite — and probably a terrorist sympathizer to boot.

How did adopting a reflexively pro-Israel stance come to be a mandatory aspect of American Jewish identity? Skepticism — a willingness to ask tough questions, a refusal to embrace dogma — has always been central to the Jewish intellectual tradition. Ironically, this tradition remains alive in Israel, where respected public figures routinely criticize the government in far harsher terms than those used by Human Rights Watch.

In a climate in which good-faith criticism of Israel is automatically denounced as anti-Semitic, everyone loses. Israeli policies are a major source of discord in the Islamic world, and anger at Israel usually spills over into anger at the U.S., Israel's biggest backer.

With resentment of Israeli policies fueling terrorism and instability both in the Middle East and around the globe, it's past time for Americans to have a serious national debate about how to bring a just peace to the Middle East. But if criticism of Israel is out of bounds, that debate can't occur — and we'll all pay the price.

Back to Human Rights Watch's critics. Why waste time denouncing imaginary anti-Semitism when there's no shortage of the real thing? From politically motivated arrests of Jews in Iran to assaults on Jewish children in Ukraine, there's plenty of genuine anti-Semitism out there — and Human Rights Watch is usually taking the lead in condemning it. So if you're bothered by anti-Semitism — if you're bothered by ideologies that insist that some human lives have less value than others — you could do a whole lot worse than send a check to Human Rights Watch.


Saturday, September 02, 2006

Leaders meet to promote peace

LBPD creates a forum among religions.
By Tracy Manzer, Staff writer
Long Beach Press Telegram

LONG BEACH - Close to 20 area religious leaders representing the Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths met earlier this week to discuss ways in which the groups can support one another and promote peace.

A horrific shooting at the Jewish Federation Offices in Seattle in July that resulted in one death and five injured, as well as recent attacks at San Diego mosques, prompted leaders in the Long Beach Police Department to call the meeting, said Lt. Joe Levy.

The forum was hosted by the Long Beach Police Department and sponsored by the National Conference for Community and Justice of Southern California, the South Coast Interfaith Council, the City of Long Beach Human Dignity Program and the police department, Levy said.

"We've found that whenever we have had incidents like those in Seattle or San Diego, it generates a lot of fear in the Jewish community and the Muslim community," the lieutenant said. "We wanted to take a proactive stance on the issue. ... We thought the best way to calm any fears and to have all the communities work together to ensure their safety was to hold the meeting."

Members of the NCCJ and police department chose about 20 leaders from among the three religious communities, but hope to invite more clergy in future sessions, Levy said.

The first meeting was dedicated to establishing communication among the various faiths and working out a plan to maintain a safe community for members of all the religions. They also discussed ways to demonstrate support for one another, Levy said.

"At the end, the consensus seemed to be that we need to continue to open the lines of communication and improve dialogue," Levy said. "By doing that, we can come up with ways to support one another and ensure safety for all faiths in our community."
Those who attended the first meeting described it as a good first step and said they looked forward to future events.

"My hope is that six months from now, there is going to be this really dynamic faith-based conversation taking place where we're learning more about each others' faith and learning about the commonalities that we do share," said Rabbi Mark Goldfarb of Temple Israel.

The rabbi and others agreed that while conflicts in other areas of the world have made it difficult at times for members of the three religions to come together, Tuesday's meeting was free of any political agendas.

Having the session at the police department made it easier, most said, because it was neutral ground for all involved.

Those who participated all said the fact that the meetings were called prior to any local tragedy or violence was an important and positive sign.

"The unique aspect of this meeting, from our point of view, is that it did not come from a negative reaction but rather as a proactive approach to strengthening relationships among people of all faith groups in Long Beach," said Hussam Ayloush, the executive director of the Southern California office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

"We are working together to eliminate potential misperceptions, disagreements or maybe the impact of the current atmosphere of war, ... and we're looking at a preventative measure to ensure that the conflict overseas does not spill over into our local communities," Ayloush said.

It is not known when the group will convene again, but all those interviewed by the Press-Telegram pledged to continue with the inter-faith dialogue.

"It took a while to get everybody's schedule open for the first meeting, but it was definitely worthwhile," Ayloush said. "Everybody came out feeling very positive, energized and hopeful. Many of us at the end wondered, `Why did it take so long to come up with such a great idea?"'

Tracy Manzer can be reached at tracy.manzer@presstele
gram.com or (562) 499-1261.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Water Rafting on the American River

With cousins and friends

Now that is fun!

CAIR Launches New Brand Identity and Logo

Brand identity stresses openness, professionalism and the pursuit of mutual understanding and justice

(CHICAGO, IL, 9/1/06) - The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today announced the launch of a new brand identity and logo. The new identity focuses on openness, professionalism and the pursuit of mutual understanding and justice.

CAIR made its announcement at the convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) in Chicago, North America's largest annual gathering of American Muslims.

In conjunction with the launch of CAIR's new brand identity, the Washington-based Islamic civil rights and advocacy group is also releasing the following documents for immediate download from www.cair.com:

CAIR National Annual Report - 2004/2005 (the 2005/2006 annual report will be available in November)
Fact sheet about CAIR
Testimonials in support of CAIR from elected government officials nationwide

In a letter to the American Muslim community announcing the new brand, CAIR Board Chairman Parvez Ahmed stated that "After 12 years of dedicated service to the community, we are reaffirming our core values and recommitting ourselves to three central aspects of CAIR's mission - enhancing understanding of Islam, protecting civil liberties and empowering American Muslims."

He also wrote about the need to transform CAIR in ways that better reflect the group's core commitment to justice, education, diversity, and dialogue.

Ahmed concluded his letter by stating: "CAIR is your organization and it is our privilege and honor to serve you and to promote a better America."

The entire text of the letter is available at www.cair.com/brandletter