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

Sunday, December 30, 2007

If Muslims Are So Terrible, Why The Need To Make Up So Many Lies?

If Muslims Are So Terrible, Why The Need To Make Up So Many Lies?

by Sheila Musaji

Yesterday I came across two articles that really brought home to me how much of what is printed about Islam and Muslims has no basis in fact, and how difficult it is to make any dent in the general negative attitudes such articles generate.

Dhimmi Watch had an article “UK: Nurses ordered to drop everything and turn Muslims’ beds toward Mecca five times daily” in which they pointed their readers to the original article about this “issue” from the British paper The Daily Express. This was totally untrue as reported by more than one source.

Another article “United States Stamp Honoring the Muslim religion” claims that “There is a Muslim sword through the 41-cents mark on the stamp, because the Muslims do not recognize the unholy money of America and the only way they would allow a stamp honoring their religion is to put a Muslim sword through the US monitory symbol the 41-cents marking.” This one is simple to check, just look at one of the Eid stamps. There is no mark at all through the 41 cent marking, and no sword anywhere on the stamp. Although, every year someone comes up with something new to denigrate the fact that such a stamp exists.

The same article about the Eid stamp also makes another claim that is often repeated: “Remember the Muslim Assassin Sirhan Sirhan in 1968 who still lives after depriving us of Bobbie Kennedy”. Again, any brief fact check would show that Sirhan was a Palestinian Christian.

Bernard Lewis’ claimed that Iran would attack the U.S. and/or Israel with nuclear weapons on August 22, 2006. This Nuclear Apocalypse turned out to be milder than expected, and in fact never happened.

Many articles make the claim that all terrorists are Muslims - and this has been repeated so often that most people simply accept that it must be true. Again, a little research will show that this is not true.

Another of these ubiquitous claims is that Muslims don’t speak up against terrorism or violence. The American Muslim has devoted a whole section to debunking this nonsense.

Lots of other things never happened, or are simply not true. Arabs didn’t celebrate 9/11 at a Dunkin Donuts in New Jersey. Budweiser did not pull all its product from the shelves of a convenience store where there was celebration of the terrorist attacks - this never happened. An American Missionary in Africa didn’t face possible murder charges and hanging because of a traffic accident. There is no verse of the Qur’an on “The Wrath of the Eagle”. The supposed bomb threat made by an Arizona student that led to an evacuation of the school was a hoax by non-Muslim students. The story that Iran was considering forcing Jews to wear a yellow star appeared in several publications and it was totally false. The slaying of the New Jersey Coptic family was falsely charged to Muslims. The story about the British banks banning piggy banks so as not to offend Muslims never happened. Muslims are not more likely to support terrorism and violence than Christians or Jews. Muslims did not destroy the Library of Alexandria.

The fact that these “news stories” and articles are simply wrong doesn’t change the fact that they are “out there” and that they will be read and believed by many of the same folks who believe the supermarket tabloids. They will be forwarded or passed on, and commented on, and the stories will grow and more and more people will accept them as “facts”.

When Muslims are charged with something the word Islam or Muslim is attached to whatever crime they are accused of, and the story makes the front page headlines, when they are found not guilty or innocent, that goes somewhere on the back pages in small print.

The comments left on internet sites by the readers of these sorts of articles show the sort of response this sort of propoganda provokes. What I don’t understand is who gains by such demonization of an entire faith.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Urban Legend on Islam: Universities removed the Holocaust from its school curriculum to please Muslims

Here is a new response to a common urban legend on Islam. I earlier wrote about this dangerous phenomenon.

I received the following email yesterday.

From: jpwood1@comcast.net
Sent: Monday, December 24, 2007 5:37 AM
Subject: Fwd: HISTORY

This week, the UK removed the Holocaust from it's school curriculum because it "offended" the Muslim population because they say it never occurred.

This is a frightening portent of the fear that is gripping the world and how easy each country is giving into it.

It is now more than 60 years since the 2nd. World War in Europe ended. This e-mail is being sent as a memorial chain, in memory of the 6 million Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians and 1,900 Catholic priests who were murdered, massacred, raped, starved, burned and humiliated while German and Russian people looked the other way!

Now more than ever, with Iran among others, claiming the Holocaust to be a myth, it is imperative to make sure the world never forgets.

This e-mail is intended to reach 40 million people worldwide! Be a link in the memorial chain and help distribute this around the world .

Don't just delete this, it will only take a minute to pass it on...


A modified version of this email is in circulation too in which it claims that the University of Kentucky has removed the Holocaust from its curriculum.

Here is the response that I sent to the sender:

Greetings of peace,

It is important to verify the accuracy of such divisive emails before sending them out.
Please read how this email is false.

For the record, many millions of Muslims also perished during WWII, a war that was mainly between European, supposedly Christian countries (with the exception of Japan) and not with Muslim countries. Many Muslims risked their lives to save Jews from being killed by the Nazis (read: http://www.sptimes.com/2007/11/04/Worldandnation/Exhibition_honors_Mus.shtml ).

Additionally, the Holocaust denial, as well as anti-Semitism, started in Europe among people who falsely claimed to be Christian. It was not part of the Muslim culture. Moreover, in case you forgot, the Holocaust itself was an atrocity committed by Europeans who also falsely claimed to be Christian. In recent years, due to the political tension caused by the Middle East conflict and Israel's mistreatment of the Palestinians, some Muslims have unfortunately adopted some of the European anti-Semitic language. Such a practice was and continues to be rejected by the overwhelming majority of Muslims. Racism is strictly forbidden in Islam. Moreover, Judaism and Jews are not responsible for the actions of Israel any more than Muslims can be held responsible for the actions of Al-Qaeda. In fact, both, mainstream Muslims and Jews have respectively spoken against the misuse of the names of Islam and Judaism by such groups, individuals, and entities.

Read my past commentary on Muslims who deny the Holocaust.
Denying the Holocaust is immoral and un-Islamic http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2006/12/denying-holocaust-is-immoral-and-un.html

Another good piece to read by a leading American Muslim scholar is:
Holocaust Denial Undermines Islam http://www.tikkun.org/magazine/tik0708/frontpage/denial

Thank you and happy new year to you and your families.

Urban Legends on Islam: the dehumanizing and demonizing of Muslims

Every few days, I receive emails from some "patriotic" Americans asking recipients to forward that message to as many friends as possible in order to "awaken" Americans to the "threat" of Muslims.

Such messages almost always contain some false urban legend to prove that Muslims are some sort of human monsters who engage in atrocious behavior. The purpose of such bigoted messages is to dehumanize Muslims and justify (or even promote) hatred and violence against them. It is tempting to ignore such messages, but we learned from history that the emotional charging of a populace, using false charges and rumors, lead to lynching of Blacks in America, the Holocaust against Jews in Europe, and the genocide of Muslims in Bosnia, among many other examples.

I have earlier responded to one such "urban legend" falsely claiming the presence of a verse about 9/11 in the Qur'an.

In the near future, I will respond to other ones that keep making the email rounds.

Friday, December 21, 2007

What's a "religious" holiday after all?

At a time when Muslim, Christians and Jews celebrate their respective holidays, it is important to reflect on the true meaning of being religious.

Being religious was never meant to be divided or separated from others. It was not meant to look down at others. It was certainly not meant to free us from our responsibilities toward our Creator and toward others. The best example of how religion was truly applied into life is witnessed in the lives of Muhammad, Jesus, Moses, Abraham (may the peace of Allah/God be upon them).

Those Prophets understood being religious as a call to love Allah wholeheartedly, worship none but Him, and care for His creation.

It is to care for fellow people, for animals, environment, and our Earth.

It is to promote goodness, fairness, mercy, and ethics, in our societies, selflessly.

It is to speak and act against injustice, oppression, poverty, human suffering, and all forms of abuse.

It is to love for others what we love for ourselves.

It is to practice what we preach others to do and avoid hypocrisy.

It is to remember that this Life we now live is not but a temporary transition to an eternal Hereafter where each one of us will be held accountable for the actions we undertook in this Life. Shouldn't we all be in the best of our behavior then?

The start of a new Gregorian and Hijri year, in few days, is a great opportunity to renew our commitment to being truly "religious", from the inside and not merely from the outside. I invite you to join me in making a resolution to "religiously" follow the example of Muhammad, Jesus, Moses, and Abraham. Let's make next year a "religious" year for us and all the people and communities we serve.

Eid Mubarak and Happy Holidays.

Friday, December 07, 2007

"Teddy" Parents Speak out

By Ismail Kamal Kushkush, IOL Correspondent

KHARTOUM — Now that the dust has settled, some parents are speaking out to set the record straight about the controversy of the "Mohamed" teddy bear.

"We want to clarify things. We are the stakeholders as parents," Isam Abu Hasabu, the chair of the private Unity High School's Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), told IslamOnline.net.

"Not one parent complained about Ms. (Gillian)Gibbons," he maintained.

Gibbons, a British female teacher, decided to give a name to a teddy-bear that would be used for a class-project.

Her class's 6-7 year-olds chose the name Mohamed, it being the name of more than one student in the classroom.

The teacher then sent letters to the parents informing them about the project in September.
Sudan reportedly launched legal action against Gibbons on the grounds that parents accused her of insulting Islam.

"No family complained," insisted Abdel Mahmoud al-Koronky, another student parent.

"Gibbons' mistake was that she gave the letters to the students [directly]; not to the school-director, who would have revised or refused it," he said.

IOL has learned that investigations are now focusing on a school employee, Sara Al-Khawadh, who passed a letter of complaint against Gibbons to the State of Khartoum's Ministry of Education.

Khawadh has been sacked from the school.

Gibbons, a mother of two, was initially sentenced to fifteen days in prison, but was pardoned by President Omar Al-Bashir thanks to the good offices of two British Muslim peers.


Some parents also blamed cultural differences for the teddy bear controversy.

The parents blamed the fuss on anti-West sentiments running high in the Arab-African Muslim country.

"People did not quietly review what actually happened," said Koronky.

"She behaved innocently. If she had a secret agenda, she would have not sent letters to the parents," he reasoned.

"She apologized. Did anyone split her heart to know her [real] intentions?"

Koronky said anti-West sentiments have been extra-tense, citing the Danish cartoons lampooning the Prophet and what many in Sudan believe to be mis-portrayal of the Darfur crisis in the West.

"Some in the pubic opinion wanted to settle scores with British foreign policy," believes the former diplomat, who once served in London.

British Prime Minister Jordon Brown has recently warned Khartoum of tougher sanctions over the Darfur conflict.

Koronky was himself the subject of widely media-covered accusations of holding a "slave-girl" in his London residence.

"I support the teacher out of my religious ethics. I was once attacked by the Christian Right in Britain."

He was later cleared of the accusations.

Some parents also blamed cultural differences for the teddy bear controversy.

"This was a mistake because of different culture values," said Abu Hasabu, the PTA chair.

"This teacher was new. She came with an idea that some educational practices would be acceptable."

Koronky agrees with the cultural difference argument.

"The symbol of an animal is different from culture to culture," he notes.

"Teddy-bears are viewed as 'friendly' in the West. But a bear here is seen a wild and beastly."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Why 'Mapping' of Muslims Was a Bad Idea

By Hussam Ayloush
Daily Breeze
Published on Sunday, November 25, 2007

[Hussam Ayloush is the executive director of the Greater Los Angeles area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and a graduate of the FBI Citizens' Academy .]

What a relief it was for me and about 20 other Southern California Muslim leaders to meet with the Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton along with Deputy Chief Michael P. Downing and Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Arif Alikhan on Thursday and be assured that the ill-conceived "mapping" program had been abandoned.

The LAPD is now moving forward and wishes to fully engage Los Angeles Muslims, creating a community forum to seek their input. That is the right path to reaching out to Muslims and helping ensure the safety and security of all Americans.

What was wrong with "mapping" of Muslims? On the surface, the proposal may have seemed well-intentioned. However, if given the green light, "mapping" would have effectively jeopardized the civil rights of all Americans, along with creating a host of other problems.

First, the '"mapping" program was based on the faulty and offensive premise that the local Muslim community is more prone to committing acts of violence than people of other faiths or ethnicities. It sought to map out Muslims according to factors such as which websites they visited, what mosques they attended, which Islamic schools of thought they followed, who they interacted with and their income levels.

The proposed project would have inevitably infringed on the First Amendment rights of law-abiding, peaceful citizens by holding them suspect based on legitimate religious and political views.

Secondly, "mapping" would have been impractical. Deputy Chief Downing said in his recent Senate testimony: "While this project will lay out the geographic locations of the many different Muslim population groups around Los Angeles, we also intend to take a deeper look at their history, demographics, language, culture, ethnic breakdown, socioeconomic status and social interactions.

"It is also our hope to identify communities, within the larger Muslim community, which may be susceptible to violent, ideologically-based extremism and then use a full-spectrum approach guided by an intelligence-led strategy."

How did the LAPD exactly envision mapping out Muslims? Muslims are widely dispersed throughout Southern California. They are not a monolithic group deriving their identity from various cultures and heritages. Some are immigrants. Many were born and bred in Greater Los Angeles.

Additionally, it would have been impossible to map out Muslims because the Census Bureau does not track data by religion. Not only that, Los Angeles is home to Persian Jews and Arab Christians. Would they have been mapped as well?

The 'mapping' program, therefore, was morally, legally, and practically wrong. I am sure the LAPD recognized and considered those factors in addition to the strong opposition from the Muslim community when it decided to withdraw the plan.

However, the good fight must continue. Americans must oppose future attempts to map or profile any community. When one group loses its rights, America loses.

Let us remind ourselves of the treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II, when more than 110,000 men, women and children were interned based solely on their heritage. In the end, not one Japanese American internee was charged with espionage.

The struggles of African Americans continue. They were first humiliated and degraded as slaves. Then decades later, they were segregated and ordered which restaurants to eat in, which parks to let their children play in, and where to sit in buses. To this day, African Americans are profiled and singled out in cities and neighborhoods around the country.

And who can forget the prejudice and discrimination against Jews? They were grossly mistreated in Europe and the United States, which eventually culminated in one of the biggest tragedies in history the Holocaust.

Now is the time to stand up for the civil liberties of all Americans. Let us not be overtaken by fear and suspicion of the "other" and disregard the Constitution, which guarantees rights to every American including the rights to free expression and free practice of religion.

National security is a concern for us all. But there is a way to strengthen national security while respectfully upholding the rights of Americans, whether they are Muslim or another faith or ethnicity.

Muslims, too, consider Southern California home and proudly work with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to keep America safe. They are doctors, teachers, business owners, soldiers, FBI agents, police officers and others who serve in all walks of life. Muslims stand with other Americans in seeking to ensure the security of our nation and of all Americans.

But we refuse to be treated as less than equal citizens. We reject "mapping" or profiling under any name, in Los Angeles or in any other city in America.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Youngest Palestinian prisoner leaves Israeli detention camp

A must read story. I could not find words to comment on this inhumanity.
Youngest Palestinian prisoner leaves detention camp

November 22, 2007
by Hadeel Wahdan – BBC

Translated by Ghassan Bannoura - IMEMC News

They say life is just stories someone did not have the chance to tell yet. With this in mind, I tried to manage the boredom I felt while waiting in front of the Israeli detention camp of Telmond for the release of Aisha Eliyan, the youngest Palestinian political detainee to be released by the Israeli army this week.

3-years-old Aisha

Aisha was born three years ago in Telmond Detention Camp. For three years she was unable to see the blue sky or play freely, her crime was that she was the daughter of a Palestinian woman, Itaf Eliyan, who is detained for being a member of a political group that Israeli considers hostile.

Aisha walking out of the detention camp with the attorney

Um Waleed, the grandmother of Aisha sat waiting on a stone installed by the army in front of the main gate of the detention camp; Um Waleed is Aisha's only remaining family member, since the army kidnapped her father several days before.

Aisha's father has never held her; he used to see her during a visit just once a week and he was unable to hold her.

Aisha's grandmother asked me to ask the soldiers guarding the gate when the release was going to take place, and before I even had the chance to reply to her request, the loud noise of the gate filled the area, and there she was; Aisha, holding the hand of the family lawyer. Um Waleed rushed to her granddaughter to hold her and kiss her.

To begin with, Aisha did not accept Um Waleed and started to pull the lawyer back toward the detention center gate while shouting and screaming for her mother, who in addition was crying because of being separated from her child.

Eventually, with fear and hesitant steps, Aisha made her first steps out of the jail. The lawyer said that Aisha should have been released a year ago, as Israeli law says children of prisoners should not stay with their parents above the age of two years old.

Aisha meeting her grandmother for the first time

There were five Palestinian babies in Israeli detention centers, three were released directly after being born due to health complications, one died at birth and Aisha stayed with her mother because her mother wanted to breastfeed her.

Quickly my cell phone caught Aisha's attention because of its constant ringing and this led her to the car that took her home. When in her new home she was jumping everywhere and looking around, exploring the place. Um Waleed looked at Aisha and said, "How I am going to take care of her, I am old and sick; they did not leave anyone from the family to take care of Aisha except me."

Aisha misses her mother

Aisha disappeared for some time and when she returned she was holding a photo of her parents on their wedding day. She did not recognize her father but of course she recognized her mother. I asked if I could speak to her and said "who are they?", she gave me an angry look because of my ignorance, and just cried "Mom, where is mom? I want go to mommy" all the while looking at the photo.

Aisha playing with the BBC reporter

Just as I was leaving, Aisha grabbed onto my bag and said in her baby language, "I go with you, to bring mommy". At three years old, she knew a lot, including that this detention center would not allow her to see her mother.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Hussam Ayloush at the CAIR-LA Banquet 2007

Hussam Ayloush speaks on protecting America's true values, opposing war, and demanding an end to profiling, "mapping", and to the Guanatanamo Bay internment camp.

Over 2,100 persons attended and contributed over $454,000 to support CAIR-LA's work.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Muslims Welcome Removal of LAPD's "Mapping" Program

Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton announces that a plan to map out where Muslims live in the city has been scrapped during a news conference in Los Angeles, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2007. Leaders from numerous Muslim communities from Southern California were on hand to support departments decision to drop the plan. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
A joint statement -

(Los Angeles, CA, – 11/15/2007) - The controversial Muslim ‘Mapping’ Plan of the Los Angeles Police Department is now “dead on arrival” according to Chief William Bratton.

“It is over and not just put on the side,” said Chief Bratton in a meeting with the Muslim leadership of Southern California on Thursday, November 15th. The meeting was moderated by Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles, Arif Alikhan and attended by Deputy Chief Mike Downing.

Chief Bratton acknowledged the hurt and offense caused to Muslims and agreed to send a letter to the Muslim community announcing the official termination of the ‘mapping’ plan.

A major reason for the termination of the 'mapping' plan was the Muslim community’s vociferous opposition and active civic engagement in making themselves heard beyond Los Angeles. Muslim organizations demonstrated a strong unity of purpose and message on the issue of 'mapping' that led to a position of strength for Muslims in the meeting. Those involved in the initial phases of this controversy were the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, Muslim Advocates and American Civil Liberties Union. Several other mosques and organizations joined in the common stand against the 'mapping' plan at the meeting.

Present at the press conference was also a large coalition of interfaith groups and social justice organizations whose continued support strengthened the Muslims' call for the withdrawal of the 'mapping' plan. The alliance with these groups proved instrumental in registering a strong voice to preserve American democratic values in our city government.

The Muslim organizations highlighted the pervasive culture of ignorance across the country in political and law enforcement circles contributing to misconceptions about Islam and Muslims that lead to short-sighted policy-making. In response, Chief Bratton suggested the establishment of a Muslim Forum for LAPD to directly interface with him and his senior command staff in pursuit of mutual understanding between law enforcement and the Muslim community. The Muslim leadership welcomed the idea and hopes the Forum will help to dispel the myths about Islam and Muslims and create a healthy dialogue with law enforcement.

Today, the people of Los Angeles spoke and the City of Los Angeles listened to the collective voice for justice and civil rights.

Friday, November 09, 2007

CNN: Hussam Ayloush of CAIR Reacts to LAPD Mapping of Muslims

Ayloush comments on the LAPD Mapping Plan of Muslims (NY Times)

Protest Greets Police Plan to Map Muslim Angelenos
November 9, 2007

A plan by the counterterrorism bureau of the Los Angeles Police Department to create a map detailing the Muslim communities in that city, an effort described as a step toward thwarting radicalization, has angered civil rights groups, which say it is no better than racial profiling.

At least three major Muslim groups and the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter yesterday to top city officials raising concerns about the plan.

“When the starting point for a police investigation is ‘let’s look at all Muslims,’ we are going down a dangerous road,” Peter Bibring, a lawyer with the A.C.L.U. of Southern California, said in an interview. “Police can and should be engaged with the communities they are policing, but that engagement can’t be a mask for intelligence gathering.”

The objections started after Michael P. Downing, a deputy Los Angeles police chief who heads the counterterrorism bureau, testified before a United States Senate committee on Oct. 30 that the Police Department was combining forces with an unidentified academic institution and looking for a Muslim partner to carry out the mapping project. He emphasized that he wanted the process to be transparent.

In his testimony, to the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Mr. Downing said the project would determine the geographic distribution of Muslims in the sprawling Los Angeles area and take “a look at their history, demographics, language, culture, ethnic breakdown, socioeconomic status and social interactions.”

The idea, Mr. Downing said in an interview yesterday, would be to determine which communities might be having problems integrating into the larger society and thus might have members susceptible to carrying out attacks, much like domestic cells in England and elsewhere in Europe.

“There are people out there who believe in extreme violent ideology who present a threat to the American people, and that is what we are trying to prevent,” he said. “This could be called another prevention strategy.”

The civil rights groups argue that contrary to what has been found in Europe, the scattered cases exposed in the United States have involved individuals with no clear ties to international terrorism groups.

The estimated 500,000 Muslims living in the greater Los Angeles area, including Orange and Riverside Counties, make its concentration of Muslims the second largest in the United States, after New York City’s.

Not all Muslim groups in the area object to Mr. Downing’s idea.

“There has been a lot of discussion on the issue of ghettoization and counterghettoization,” said Salam al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, which is considering being the Police Department’s partner in the project. Mr. Marayati said his group supported anything that would help integration as long as it safeguarded civil liberties.

Among those interviewed, whatever their position on the project, Mr. Downing rated high marks for his community policing efforts, and the letter to city officials suggested that the groups opposed to his idea meet with him to discuss it. Those signing the letter included Muslim Advocates, a national association of Muslim lawyers, and the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, an umbrella organization for mosques.

The groups were particularly angered that in his Senate testimony, Mr. Downing, discussing the possibility of Muslims’ radicalization, seemed to suggest looking at factors like exposure to the puritanical teachings of the Wahhabi sect, instability in countries of origin and where they get their news. He also suggested that the study would result in helping amplify the voice of Muslim moderates who could counter fanatics.

“Who is going to decide who are the moderates?” said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations for the Los Angeles area, who also signed the letter. “Are Muslims who criticize the war in Iraq moderate?”

The groups’ letter coincided with the release yesterday by Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa and other city and law enforcement officials of an F.B.I. report that Al Qaeda might be planning to strike at shopping malls in Los Angeles and Chicago during the Christmas season. But the F.B.I. report itself characterized the information as uncertain.

The groups involved in protesting the mapping plan said any threat from Al Qaeda, even a tenuous one, underscored their point that limited police resources should be directed at investigating real crimes rather than at what they characterized as treating the entire Muslim community with suspicion.

“Al Qaeda has always operated outside the United States,” Mr. Ayloush said, “and has miserably failed to gain any support or sympathy among the American Muslim population.”

Michael Parrish contributed reporting from Los Angeles.

Muslim, Civil Rights Groups Oppose LAPD ‘Mapping’ Project

CAIR-LA Press Release

(LOS ANGELES, CA, 11/9/07) -- The Greater Los Angeles area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) today joined other civil liberties groups and Islamic institutions to voice opposition to a project proposed by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) to “map” Muslim communities in Southern California.

CAIR-LA, along with the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, Muslim Advocates and the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, sent a letter to the LAPD Thursday expressing concerns over the possible civil rights violations if the proposed “mapping” of the Muslim community were to move forward.

The letter, which was in response to LAPD Commander Michael Downing’s U.S. Senate testimony on Oct. 30, stated in part: “The mapping of Muslim communities as part of counter-terrorism efforts seems premised on the faulty notion that Muslims are more likely to commit violent acts than people of other faiths. Singling out individuals for investigation, surveillance, and data-gathering based on their religion constitutes religious profiling that is just as unlawful, ill-advised, and deeply offensive as racial profiling.”

SEE: Letter from Muslim leaders to LAPD
SEE: LAPD Commander Michael P. Downing's Testimony

SEE ALSO: Protest Greets Police Plan to Map Muslims (NY Times)
SEE ALSO: LAPD to Build Data on Muslim Areas (LA Times)
SEE ALSO: LAPD Mapping Plan Draws Ire from Muslims (USA Today)

“Based on statements of those involved, it is clear that the ‘mapping’ project would target the Muslim community based not on any suspicious criminal activities, but rather on the basis of legitimate religious and political views protected by the First Amendment,” said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of CAIR Greater Los Angeles. “This project would undermine many years spent building trust and partnership between the Muslim community and law enforcement agencies.”

In the letter, the Muslim and civil rights leaders also requested a meeting with Commander Downing, scheduled for October 15, to discuss concerns about the “mapping” project

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A horrific story that seems like a page from resigned Attorney General Alberto Gonazales' memos on torture

May be this couple can apply for his job, since they have the experience. Or even better, may be they can hire him as their lawyer. He can probably do it pro bono since he is an expert on ways to legalize and justify torture.

It is a shame what some humans are capable of doing to fellow humans, forgetting that God is All-Mighty, All Just.


Alleged slavery victim testifies of stunning abuse
Newsday (New York)
November 6, 2007

For almost six hours yesterday, the small Indonesian woman spoke about what she said were 5 1/2 years of semi-starvation and an incomprehensible gamut of abuse and cruelty in the home of a wealthy Muttontown couple.

The 51-year-old-woman, named Samirah, testified through a court interpreter at the federal trial of the couple, Varsha Sabhnani and her husband, Mahender. They are accused of enslaving Samirah and another Indonesian woman, Enung, 46, and also harboring them as illegal immigrants...

Samirah testified that she was beaten numerous times - with a rolling pin, a light brown umbrella, two short-handled bamboo brooms - plus was cut frequently with the point of an orange-bladed knife, scalded with boiling water, and pinched by Varsha Sabhnani's long fingernails so hard that they drew blood...

Samirah also testified about the time she said she was forced to work while wearing a pair of glasses whose lenses had been covered with plastic wrapping tape so she could barely see, and about the time she said she was stripped naked and had the tape wrapped over her body, head and eyes.

When the tape was pulled off, it took parts of her body hair with it, Samirah said...

The source of the abuse and torture, which occurred almost daily, Samirah said, was Varsha Sabhnani's belief that she did not meet her standards as a maid.

But Samirah said it was impossible to work to anyone's standards given the fact that she usually worked from 4 a.m. to past midnight, was dressed in rags without underwear, and did not have enough food to live on without eating from the Sabhnanis' garbage cans, or begging from two woman employees who worked in the office of the perfume business...

As another form of punishment, Samirah said, she was forced to eat dozens of hot chili peppers and tablespoons of hot chili powder.

The beatings and the forced eating of chili made her unable to control her bodily functions and she often vomited, urinated or defecated when being abused, she said.

One time, Samirah said that when she vomited, Varsha Sabhnani beat her and tried to force her to eat her own vomit. When she was was unable to do that, Sabhnani mixed the vomit with a liquid and salt and required her to drink that mixture, Samirah said...

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Fisk: Warning, this film could make you angry

Robert Fisk commenting on the new movie "Rendition"
03 November 2007

At university, we male students used to say that it was impossible to take a beautiful young woman to the cinema and concentrate on the film. But in Canada, I've at last proved this to be untrue. Familiar with the Middle East and its abuses – and with the vicious policies of George Bush – we both sat absorbed by Rendition, Gavin Hood's powerful, appalling testimony of the torture of a "terrorist suspect" in an unidentified Arab capital after he was shipped there by CIA thugs in Washington.

Why did an Arab "terrorist" telephone an Egyptian chemical engineer – holder of a green card and living in Chicago with a pregnant American wife while he was attending an international conference in Johannesburg? Did he have knowledge of how to make bombs? (Unfortunately, yes – he was a chemical engineer – but the phone calls were mistakenly made to his number.)

He steps off his plane at Dulles International Airport and is immediately shipped off on a CIA jet to what looks suspiciously like Morocco – where, of course, the local cops don't pussyfoot about Queensberry rules during interrogation. A CIA operative from the local US embassy – played by a nervous Jake Gyllenhaal – has to witness the captive's torture while his wife pleads with congressmen in Washington to find him.

The Arab interrogator – who starts with muttered questions to the naked Egyptian in an underground prison – works his way up from beatings to a "black hole", to the notorious "waterboarding" and then to electricity charges through the captive's body...

Well, suffice it to say that the CIA guy turns soft, rightly believes the Egyptian is innocent, forces his release by the local minister of interior...Not very realistic?

Well, think again. For in Canada lives Maher Arar, a totally harmless software engineer – originally from Damascus – who was picked up at JFK airport in New York and underwent an almost identical "rendition" to the fictional Egyptian in the movie. Suspected of being a member of al-Qa'ida – the Canadian Mounties had a hand in passing on this nonsense to the FBI – he was put on a CIA plane to Syria where he was held in an underground prison and tortured. The Canadian government later awarded Arar $10m in compensation and he received a public apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper...

But then again, what can you expect of a president whose nominee for Alberto Gonzales's old job of attorney general, Michael Mukasey, tells senators that he doesn't "know what is involved" in the near-drowning "waterboarding" torture used by US forces during interrogations. "If waterboarding is torture, torture is not constitutional," the luckless Mukasey bleated.

Yes, and I suppose if electric shocks to the body constitute torture – if, mind you – that would be unconstitutional. Right? The New York Times readers at least spotted the immorality of Mukasey's remarks. A former US assistant attorney asked "how the United States could hope to regain its position as a respected world leader on the great issues of human rights if its chief law enforcement officer cannot even bring himself to acknowledge the undeniable verity that waterboarding constitutes torture...". As another reader pointed out, "Like pornography, torture doesn't require a definition." ...

So is truth stranger than fiction? Or is Hollywood waking up – after Syriana and Munich – to the gross injustices of the Middle East and the shameless and illegal policies of the US in the region? Go and see Rendition – it will make you angry – and remember Arar. And you can take a beautiful woman along to share your fury.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Lawmaker objects to getting copy of Quran

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - After one Oklahoma lawmaker raised terrorism as an issue, several others joined him in rejecting a gift of the Quran from a council created by Gov. Brad Henry.

"Most Oklahomans do not endorse the idea of killing innocent women and children in the name of ideology," said Rep. Rex Duncan, R-Sand Springs.

Duncan expressed his feelings in a letter to his colleagues on Monday. By late Tuesday, 15 legislators had notified the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council that they were returning the gift.

Marjaneh Seirafi-Pour, chairman of the council and a Muslim, said she was "a little disappointed."

Seirafi-Pour said the gift was a way to introduce the council to lawmakers so they can use it as a resource to "serve their offices and constituents." She estimates there are 30,000 to 50,000 Muslims in Oklahoma.

She said no state funds were used in the project.

Seirafi-Pour disagreed with Duncan's assessment of her religion. "I know he referred to Islam as an ideology. That is not a fact. It is a religion. It is very peaceful, very inclusive.

"We do not wish to have any ill feelings or miscommunications with any other groups or any other religions and especially our elected officials."

"My comment is that we never hear those 30,000 to 50,000 Muslims opposing the practice of violence on innocent people," Duncan said.

Duncan was asked about a double standard since lawmakers received a Centennial copy of the Bible earlier in the year from The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

"Mine is proudly on my desk on the Capitol and I don't think I ever read a part of it that condones the killing of women and children in furtherance of God's word," Duncan said. "It's one of the nicest things I've received in my three years in the Legislature."

Henry could not be contacted for comment because he was on an overseas flight to Great Britain in his role as chairman of the Council of State Governments.

Spokesman Paul Sund said the council was created by executive order in 2003. "A group of Oklahomans of predominantly Middle Eastern descent came to the governor and asked him to create an advisory council similar to others that have been created for Asian Americans and Hispanic Americans.

"The governor thought the idea made sense, given the history of cultural diversity in Oklahoma."

In Washington, spokesman Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the controversy is "disturbing" and "offensive" to Muslims.

"It just points to the amount of education about Islam and the American Muslim community that is needed in all levels in our society, including elected officials," Hooper said.

When Ignorance is not bliss, but rather pure bigotry and shame

A recent Associated Press story stated that about two dozen Oklahoma lawmakers plan to return copies of the Qur'an to a state panel on diversity created by Gov. Brad Henry after a lawmaker claimed the Muslim holy book condones the killing of innocent women and children.

The lawmaker, Rep. Rex Duncan, is obviously ignorant. Hey, there is no shame in being ignorant. We all are ignorant about many things. But it is a disaster when one is in denial of his/her ignorance and even makes judgments and bigoted decisions based on that ignorance. There is absolutely not a single verse in the Qur'an that condones the killing of any innocent people, including women and children. If anything, Islamic teachings clearly and strongly stresses the value and sanctity of every human life. Even in times of defensive just wars, Muslims are unequivocally forbidden from harming women, children, the old, non-combatants, the wounded, animals, and even the environment.

Rep. Duncan went on spewing more lies and hate, saying: "we never hear those...Muslims opposing the practice of violence on innocent people".
Mr. Duncan, do yourself a favor and read the following site to learn about some of the efforts Muslims undertook in face of terrorism.

Well, this lawmaker's shameful ignorance did not stop here (some politicians just don't know when to stop talking). When asked if there was any double standard since lawmakers received a Centennial copy of the Bible earlier in the year from The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, Rep. Duncan was quoted saying:

"Mine is proudly on my desk on the Capitol and I don't think I ever read a part of it that condones the killing of women and children in furtherance of God's word."

Here is another proof that Duncan does not read much, if any. To say that Christian teachings (like that of Islam and Judaism) forbid the harming of innocent people, including women and children, will be accurate. But to say that he never read a part of the Bible that condones such killing is definitely inaccurate. Either Duncan never really opened the Bible gift given to him (what kind of a claimed Christian must he be? Probably a politician who panders to the Christian Right!), or he is reading a different Bible than the one I studied in my Christian schools.

Like all scriptures (and probably more than others), the Bible carries many verses dealing with violence. Such verses tend to be manipulated by extremists to justify their radical and violent views and actions. The Holocaust, slavery, the Crusades, the Inquisitions, and even the murdering of abortion doctors are all a result of such twisted interpretations. Rep. Duncan, don't feel singled out, such radicals exist in every religion. But to claim that such text does not exist is really dumb. Sorry, I had to use that word.
I strongly suggest reading: Beware sensational translations of holy verse, torn out of context

Here is a sample of such verses in the Bible:

In the New Testament, Jesus was quoted saying:

I come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled (Luke 12:49)

But those my enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me (Luke 19:27)

The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all thing that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be they wailing and gnashing of teeth (Matt 13: 41-42)

But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I come not to send peace, but a sword (Matt 10: 33-34)

The Old Testament includes:

Ezekiel 9:4-6. And the Lord said unto him... Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women; ...and begin at my sanctuary.

I Samuel 15:2,3. Thus says the Lord of hosts, ...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.

Isaiah 13:15-16. Everyone that is found shall be thrust through; ...Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished.

Hosea 13:16. Their infants shall be dashed in pieces and their women with child shall be ripped up.

Numbers 31:17-18. Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that has known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves (as concubines).

Psalm 137:9. Happy shall he be, that takes and dashes their little ones against the stones. [the Babylonians' children.]

Exodus 35:2 states the anyone working on the Sabbath should be put to death.

Leviticus 20:13 "If a man lies with a male, as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."

Deuteronomy 13:6-8, 8-9 'If your brother, or your son or daughter, or your beloved wife tries to secretly entice you, telling you to go and worship other gods, gods of people living near you, or far from you, or anywhere on earth, do not listen to him.' 'You must kill them. Show them no pity. And your hand must strike the first blow.'

Again, such verses do not define the Christian teachings of peace and forgiveness. But the truth is that those verses are part of the Bible. As a Muslim, I am taught to learn about others based on their interpretation of their religious beliefs, not based on the actions of the fringe followers. (I wish Rep. Duncan follows that rule too)

The ignorance expressed by Rep. Duncan is certainly not bliss this time. It is pure bigotry and shame. There was a time when lawmakers were true leaders; leaders who were expected to be intelligent, informed, wise, uniting, and with common sense. Gone are the good old days.
Today, some of those false "leaders" lead by their ignorance and by the fear of the "other" that they instill in their constituencies.

Fortunately, most Christians that I know and closely associate with (including family members and friends), do not follow Rep. Duncan's deformed brand of Christianity which preaches hatred toward others.

At the end of the AP story, spokesman Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations was quoted saying:

"It just points to the amount of education about Islam and the American Muslim community that is needed in all levels in our society, including elected officials."

I could not have said it any better. He just is much more diplomatic than me.

Muslims Urge Prayers for Rain to Put Out Calif. Fires

CAIR asks people of all faiths to join nationwide spiritual effort

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today called on mosques and other houses of worship across the nation to offer prayers for rain to help put out wildfires currently raging in California.

SEE: California Fires Force Another 50,000 From Homes

CAIR urged American mosques to offer special Islamic prayers, called Salatul Istisqa (sal-AT-al-istis-KA), which the Prophet Muhammad traditionally offered during times of drought.

In Salatul Istisqa, the Prophet would offer supplications such as: "O God, give us rain that will replenish us, abundant, fertilizing and profitable, not injurious. Grant it now without delay...Send down rain upon us and make it a source of strength and satisfaction...O God, give us a saving rain, good and productive, general and heavy, now and not later, beneficial and not harmful."

The Quran, Islam’s revealed text, states: "O my people! Seek forgiveness of your Lord and turn to Him in repentance. He will send you from the sky abundant rain." (Quran, 11:52)

"Americans of all faiths need to offer spiritual assistance to the courageous firefighters who are battling these deadly fires," said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad.

Awad also asked mosques in wildfire areas to offer shelter to fire victims and that financial aid for victims be sent to the American Red Cross.

SEE: American Red Cross Response to Southern California Wildfires

Locally, the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California and local Islamic centers are organizing the special prayer of Salatul Istisqa at the Islamic Society of Orange County from 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm on Thursday the 25th of October. All area Imams were also requested to dedicate their Friday (Oct 26th) sermons for the same purpose.

Mosques in Irvine and San Diego have opened their doors to welcome evacuees escaping the raging fire.

A firefighter lit backfires to protect the Bonita neighborhood in San Diego County.
Photo: Eric Thayer/Getty

ImagesGov. Arnold Schwarzenegger observed a fire burning out of control in Lake Arrowhead, Calif.
Photo: Jim Wilson/The New York Times

A firefighter working to put out a fire in the vineyard at a home in Lake Hodges, near San Diego on Tuesday. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

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

Urban legends come in different types. Some are meant to entertain and others are meant to demonize and dehumanize a group of people. Once a group of people is dehumanized, it becomes much easier to discriminate against, harass, or even subject such people to a genocide. The examples of what happened to Jews by Nazi Germany, Bosnian Muslims by Serb Nationalists, and Chechens by Russians, provide us with tragic proof from our history.

Here is an example of an email that keeps surfacing on various lists, poisoning the minds of uninformed people.

Read down to the very bottom highlighted in green, IT'LL GIVE YOU GOOSE-BUMPS!!!

You don't want to miss this! ((*_*) )


This is something to think about: Since America is typically represented by an eagle.
Saddam should have read up on his Muslim passages ...
The following verse is from the Koran, (the Islamic Bible)

Koran ( 9:11 ) - For it is written that a son of Arabia would awaken a fearsome Eagle.. The wrath of the Eagle would be felt throughout the lands of Allah and lo, while some of the people trembled in despair still more rejoiced; for the wrath of the Eagle cleansed the l ands of Allah; And there was peace.
(Note the verse number!) Hmmmmmmm?!

This is a ribbon for soldiers fighting in Iraq.
Pass it on to everyone and pray. Something good will happen to you tonight at 11:11 PM. This is not a joke.
Someone will either call you or will talk to you online and say that they love you.
Do not break this chain.

Send this to 13 people in the next 15 minutes

Now this would have been really amazing, except that there is no such verse in the Quran, not anywhere in the Quran. The lying bigot who originally wrote this message and the ignorant person who is forwarding it to others without verifying its accuracy are just willingly contributing to the anti-Muslim sentiment which is the cause of a growing number of cases of hateful attacks and discrimination against Muslims in the world.

Unless we all commit ourselves to dialogue, learn, and understand other people, most of us will continue to fall prey to such ignorance and deception.

Ironically, the actual verse 9:11 says:

But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then are they your brethren in religion. We detail Our revelations for a people who have knowledge.

What an irony. The verse speaks about repentance and brotherhood. It also reminds us that such revelation are explained and understood by those who have knowledge, not the ignorant ones; the same ignorant bigots who engage in forwarding such hateful messages to begin with.

Indeed, Allah/God is the Most Wise, the All Knowing.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


The Council on American-Islamic Relations, of Greater Los Angeles (CAIR-LA) is calling on American Muslims and other people of conscience, to urge California Governor Schwarzenegger to sign the California DREAM-Act.
The California DREAM-Act AB-540 (SB-1) will grant qualified undocumented immigrant students -- who grew up in California and graduated from our high schools -- to apply for and receive financial aid at our colleges and universities. These aren't just any students -- many of these students are the first generation of their families to attend college and are among the poorest and most in need of tuition assistance in California. They are the children of undocumented immigrants whose lives were profoundly changed the moment their parents brought them to America. Almost all of them came here without choice.

Do your part in ensuring that all CA students have access to higher education and have a chance to realize the American dream.

SB 1 passed the state legislature on September 11th and now the Governor has until October 14th to take action on the bill. From across the state, students, youth, faith, community, and labor groups are urging the Governor to sign SB 1.


Please contact Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to ask him to support the California DREAM-Act. Personal letters sent by fax are best, followed by calls and e-mails, in that order. Make sure to include your name and full address and to ask for a written response. You may contact the office even if you are not registered to vote or a citizen. Governor Schwarzenegger represents all California residents.

Sign the petition: http://www.couragecampaign.org/page/s/DREAM

1) I respectfully ask that Governor Schwarzenegger signs the California DREAM Act.
2) I strongly support granting student’s eligibility for need-based state financial aide.

Capitol Office – Call the Sacramento office at (916) 445-2841. Press 1, then 5, then 6, and finally 1 again for support. It only takes 10 seconds!
State Capitol Building, Sacramento, CA 95814; Fax (916) 445-4633; governor@governor.ca.gov

What does your god teach you?

Two days ago, I forwarded the CAIR action alert asking Californians to contact Governor Schwarzenegger to urge him to sign on the California DREAM-Act (SB-1) which will grant qualified undocumented immigrant students -- who grew up in California and graduated from our high schools -- to apply for and receive financial aid at our colleges and universities. . Read more about the bill below.

In response to that alert, I received several e-mails from a local person attacking Islam and CAIR's position on the DREAM Act issue. Disagreeing over political views is normal, and even healthy; however, for one to resort to offensive and even bigoted language against the religious values of others is never acceptable. Below is the email exchange I had with the sender of the email. (I removed the last name of the person to protect her privacy)


From: Linda B.
Sent: Wednesday, October 10, 2007 8:31 PM
Subject: RE: Urge California Governor Schwarzenegger to sign the California DREAM-Act

Perhaps God the Compassionate the merciful could have stopped the stoning of women under Islamic Law. The slaughtered pulp of what was left probably wasn't really feeling that compassion you're talking about.


From: Linda B.
Sent: Wednesday, October 10, 2007 8:29 PM
Subject: RE: Urge California Governor Schwarzenegger to sign the California DREAM-Act

As a high school teacher I can tell you that there are so many many middle and lower class families absolutely struggling to send their children to college. All monies for post secondary education which come from tax monies must be used to educate our citizens first. Americans cannot afford to send THEIR OWN children to college, how in the world can you expect them to educate children from other countries when their own children cannot afford to go? Better rethink this one. My God believes in justice, I don't know about yours.



From: Hussam
To: Linda

Hi Linda,

Those children and their parents might not be legal residents, but they also pay taxes, like all of us. Even if they did not, we should not punish children for something they were not responsible for. Last that I checked, America gave all of us an opportunity to strive and realize our dreams although our earliest immigrants who came on the Columbus ships and soon after were not quite legal immigrants themselves. Should we be penalized for the illegal actions of those early settlers?

As for your question about my God, here is what He stands for.

My God teaches us that “all people are the dependents of God and the most loved by God are those who take care of His dependents”. (Saying of Prophet Muhammad)

My God teaches us that helping those in need does not depend on their nationality, citizenship, race, color, or immigration status.

My God teaches us that all people are part of one family. We all are the children of Adam and Eve. We all are brothers and sisters in humanity.

My God teaches us that it is not fair to punish children for the mistake of their parents. Those children did not choose to come here illegally and should not be deprived from education.

My God teaches us that “one is not a true believer until he/she loves for others what he/she loves for him/herself”. I love for my children to get an education; therefore, I love it for other people’s children too.

My God teaches us that it is immoral to invade and destroy other nations and countries. He teaches us that it is immoral to be willing to spend over $500,000,000,000 (that’s 500 billions) to wage war and create desperation on people thousands of miles away, but opposed to spending a fraction of that amount to bring prosperity and hope to people sharing our own communities.

Linda, that’s what my God and the God of every Muslim, Christian and Jew stands for (I studied the Qur’an and the Bible). I am afraid that the god you are following is none but the false gods of selfishness, greed, xenophobia, nationalism, and arrogance.

I pray to God that He places love and mercy in our hearts toward others.

Peace and regards,
Hussam Ayloush

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Flying while Muslim: In the crosshairs of airport security

By ABDUSSALAM MOHAMED, Senior Staff Writer InFocus Newspaper

LOS ANGELES – In a post-9/11 world, returning from an overseas trip could mean a serious ordeal at the port of entry for many American Arab and Muslim travelers, especially those returning from the Middle East or a Muslim country.

Many recount harrowing experiences of unfair treatment, rude behavior, unnecessary and humiliating interrogations, unprofessional conduct by DHS officials and long detentions for little or no reasonable cause. For many, the striking similarities between their stories and the frequency of occurrence point to one inevitable conclusion: profiling.

They argue that no matter when or where they travel, the crosshairs of airport security seem to be repeatedly locked on them...

For Shaikh Yassir Fazaga, 35, religious director at the Orange County Islamic Foundation in Mission Viejo, Calif., being detained and questioned when traveling through American ports is not just the norm but also an expected inconvenience.
“Any time I leave the country, I’m usually stopped for at least an hour or two - the most was four hours,” said the Eritrea-born soft-spoken imam. “I’ve gotten so used to it, that I actually prepare myself.”

An almost identical experience happened to no other than Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the southern California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and a very well-known and respected Muslim leader.

As recently as July of this year, Ayloush arrived in Denver, Colo., on a flight from London, England, but which originated in Lebanon, and said that when a DHS agent could not clear his passport, he was ushered into a private room.

There he was interrogated about his trip, which he took to visit his sick grandmother and to attend a brother’s wedding.

“Which countries did you visit? How did you get through those countries? How many people were in the car? Who was driving the car?” the DHS officer asked sternly. And then she asked him what he did for a living.

“The minute I told her I worked for CAIR, she suddenly became more cautious in her line of questioning,” Ayloush said. “She suddenly affected a friendly tone and even asked when would CAIR open a chapter in Colorado.”

Fazaga said he experiences similar treatment with regards to the questioning. He said he is asked questions such as, “What do you think of Bukhari (a ninth century Muslim scholar of Hadith)? How come you are not dressed as an imam? What are your thoughts on the Shia? What are your feelings on jihad?”

Ayloush doubts DHS agents such as these know what they are doing or looking for. “There’s such a high level of fear and paranoia, there is no legitimate reason for many of these type of searches and questions,” he said.

In his case, the DHS officer apologized and argued she was just doing her job, he said. But Ayloush contended, “common sense should be part of her job, too.” Happily for the 37-year old executive director, he was able to catch his connecting flight.
But for Fazaga and almost 75 percent of the Saudia Airlines passengers who landed at the John F. Kennedy airport in New York City a few months ago, this was not the case. Because the plane arrived in the evening, many people missed their connecting flights and had to wait until the next morning for a connection. “It was a sad scene to see nursing mothers with crying babies who needed to be changed and fed, students and people on work deadlines detained for hours,” Fazaga said. “Some were coming for the first time to this country, and could not afford to spend the night at a hotel, so after an 11 hour flight, they remained stuck at the airport for 12 hours.”

“Profiling people based solely on their Muslim background is either due to incompetence, bias or ignorance,” he said. “There is no shame in being ignorant but those who are in charge of such an important job cannot hide behind ignorance, especially post 9/11.”...

Read Full Article:

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Dissenting at your own risk

Dissenting at your own risk
Special to the Star-Telegram

Last year, I agreed to speak to a Jewish youth group about my organization, Jewish Voice for Peace, and our opposition to Israel's occupation. My talk was to follow one from a member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which calls itself "America's pro-Israel Lobby."

A week before, a shaken program leader said the AIPAC staffer had threatened to get the entire youth program's funding canceled if I was allowed in the door. The threat worked, and in disgust, they canceled the whole talk.

Pundits will surely argue for years about professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer's explosive new book, The Israel Lobby, which blames poor U.S. policy in the Middle East on a loose network of individuals and pro-Israel advocacy groups.

But the book, and the response to it, opens up another controversy: the stifling of debate about unconditional U.S. support for Israeli policies.

Why is Israel's increasingly brutal 40-year occupation of Palestinian land regularly debated in the mainstream media abroad, including in Israel, but not here? And why is there an almost total lack of discussion among presidential candidates about the dollars that subsidize this occupation and the American diplomatic support that makes it possible?

In a society built on the free exchange of ideas, as Walt and Mearsheimer point out, one answer can be found by looking at the many self-appointed gatekeepers, such as Abraham Foxman and the Anti-Defamation League, or Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who use their Jewish identity as both a shield and cudgel. They work diligently to silence those who question ill-conceived policies of the Israeli and U.S. governments.

Non-Jewish critics, even former President Carter, are denounced as anti-Semites. Special ire is reserved for Jewish dissenters, who are branded as "self-hating" or "marginal," while Muslim and Arab-Americans are easily smeared and even criminalized with charges of supporting terrorism.

Stunned by the stifling of dissent, we decided to start a Web site, Muzzlewatch, to track the incidents. Just as we launched, Stanford Middle East Studies Professor Joel Beinin was disinvited from a speaking engagement at a high school with just 24 hours' notice.

After an unprecedented campaign of outside interference waged by Dershowitz, Professor Norman Finkelstein was refused tenure by DePaul University because of his criticism of U.S.-Israeli policy.

Palestinian-American anthropologist Nadia Abu El-Haj is fighting a political campaign to deny her tenure at Barnard.

Even Walt and Mearsheimer, who are getting plenty of exposure, couldn't have asked for better proof of their point that the lobby works to stifle dissent when an embarrassed head of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs told them that their scheduled speech was canceled. (They did speak before the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth on Sept. 17.) This was apparently because Foxman was not available that day to "balance" their talk.

(They had initially been booked by themselves. The talk was not rescheduled.)

Many groups that started with the important work of fighting real anti-Semitism now rely on anti-Semitism to insist that to show one's love of Jews, one must offer uncritical support to Israel. They are especially displeased by Jews who believe that enabling Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights is not good for anyone.

Unless this atmosphere of intimidation is confronted, Americans will continue to lack access to information and perspectives necessary to formulate effective Middle East policies, virtually ensuring that Israel and the United States will be at war for many years to come.

'The Israel Lobby'
A podcast of Walt and Mearsheimer's presentation is available at http://podcast.dfwworld.org/2007_09-17_The_Israel_Lobby.MP3

Cecilie Surasky is communications director for the Oakland-based Jewish Voice for Peace.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Thomas Friedman: 9/11 Is Over

In recent years, especially since after Sep. 11, 2001, I have found myself more and more in disagreement with Thomas Friedman's views. Over the past few years, he has taken a more hawkish approach to world conflicts rather than promoting an approach of dialogue and diplomacy. I hope that Mr. Friedman's most recent New York Times commentary indicates a return to Friedman's earlier moderate and humanistic view of the world.

No matter what, one should offer credit and praise where and when it is due. Kudos to Friedman.

September 30, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist
9/11 Is Over

Not long ago, the satirical newspaper The Onion ran a fake news story that began like this:

"At a well-attended rally in front of his new ground zero headquarters Monday, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani officially announced his plan to run for president of 9/11. 'My fellow citizens of 9/11, today I will make you a promise,' said Giuliani during his 18-minute announcement speech in front of a charred and torn American flag. 'As president of 9/11, I will usher in a bold new 9/11 for all.' If elected, Giuliani would inherit the duties of current 9/11 President George W. Bush, including making grim facial expressions, seeing the world's conflicts in terms of good and evil, and carrying a bullhorn at all state functions."

Like all good satire, the story made me both laugh and cry, because it reflected something so true — how much, since 9/11, we've become "The United States of Fighting Terrorism." Times columnists are not allowed to endorse candidates, but there's no rule against saying who will not get my vote: I will not vote for any candidate running on 9/11. We don't need another president of 9/11. We need a president for 9/12. I will only vote for the 9/12 candidate.

What does that mean? This: 9/11 has made us stupid. I honor, and weep for, all those murdered on that day. But our reaction to 9/11 — mine included — has knocked America completely out of balance, and it is time to get things right again.

It is not that I thought we had new enemies that day and now I don't. Yes, in the wake of 9/11, we need new precautions, new barriers. But we also need our old habits and sense of openness. For me, the candidate of 9/12 is the one who will not only understand who our enemies are, but who we are.

Before 9/11, the world thought America's slogan was: "Where anything is possible for anybody." But that is not our global brand anymore. Our government has been exporting fear, not hope: "Give me your tired, your poor and your fingerprints."

You may think Guantánamo Bay is a prison camp in Cuba for Al Qaeda terrorists. A lot of the world thinks it's a place we send visitors who don't give the right answers at immigration. I will not vote for any candidate who is not committed to dismantling Guantánamo Bay and replacing it with a free field hospital for poor Cubans. Guantánamo Bay is the anti-Statue of Liberty.

Roger Dow, president of the Travel Industry Association, told me that the United States has lost millions of overseas visitors since 9/11 — even though the dollar is weak and America is on sale. "Only the U.S. is losing traveler volume among major countries, which is unheard of in today's world," Mr. Dow said.

Total business arrivals to the United States fell by 10 percent over the 2004-5 period alone, while the number of business visitors to Europe grew by 8 percent in that time. The travel industry's recent Discover America Partnership study concluded that "the U.S. entry process has created a climate of fear and frustration that is turning away foreign business and leisure travelers and hurting America's image abroad." Those who don't visit us, don't know us.

I'd love to see us salvage something decent in Iraq that might help tilt the Middle East onto a more progressive pathway. That was and is necessary to improve our security. But sometimes the necessary is impossible — and we just can't keep chasing that rainbow this way.

Look at our infrastructure. It's not just the bridge that fell in my hometown, Minneapolis. Fly from Zurich's ultramodern airport to La Guardia's dump. It is like flying from the Jetsons to the Flintstones. I still can't get uninterrupted cellphone service between my home in Bethesda and my office in D.C. But I recently bought a pocket cellphone at the Beijing airport and immediately called my wife in Bethesda — crystal clear.

I just attended the China clean car conference, where Chinese automakers were boasting that their 2008 cars will meet "Euro 4" — European Union — emissions standards. We used to be the gold standard. We aren't anymore. Last July, Microsoft, fed up with American restrictions on importing brain talent, opened its newest software development center in Vancouver. That's in Canada, folks. If Disney World can remain an open, welcoming place, with increased but invisible security, why can't America?

We can't afford to keep being this stupid! We have got to get our groove back. We need a president who will unite us around a common purpose, not a common enemy. Al Qaeda is about 9/11. We are about 9/12, we are about the Fourth of July — which is why I hope that anyone who runs on the 9/11 platform gets trounced.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Local imams devote their sermon to a message of peace, harmony

PRAYERS FOR PEACE: Adeel Khan, visiting family in Irvine from Manchester, U.K., prays after a sermon by Imam Sadullah Khan at the Islamic Center of Irvine.

PEACEFUL SERMON: Imam Sadullah Khan gives a sermon condemning terror and stressing the sanctity of life and moral opposition to violence, at the Islamic Center of Irvine Friday.

PRAYERS FOR PEACE: A mosque member prays before a sermon.

DEEP IN THOUGHT: Mohammed Elfarooqui, of Irvine,
listens to a sermon by Imam Sadullah Khan at the Islamic Center of Irvine Friday.

Saturday, September 29, 2007
Local Muslims offer prayers for Ramadan
A local imam devotes his sermon to a message of peace, harmony.

GARDEN GROVE - Imam Muzammil Siddiqi thought it would be a good time to reiterate his message of peace and tolerance.

As hundreds gathered Friday at the Islamic Center of Orange County in observance of the holy month of Ramadan, Siddiqi devoted his sermon to taking a stand against violence and promoting human values.

"My message is that Islam is the religion of peace," he said before the service. "Islam is the religion of harmony, tolerance and justice for all people."

Likewise, members of the Islamic Center of Irvine heard a similar sermon condemning terrorism and violence during a time when public perception of Islam has faltered. The services in Garden Grove and Irvine were part of a collective effort to promote good will and quash some of the misperceptions about Muslims.

"Ramadan is a time of virtues," Siddiqi said in his sermon. "It is also a time to reflect on the problems of the day. The world is facing grave problems of injustice, greed, moral decay, violence and wars."

Munira Syeda of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said Friday's sermons were part of an effort to bring mosques and organizations together to promote a united message.

"This is something that mosques have done individually over the years," Syeda said.

However, individual stances against violence have largely been ignored as the general public believes that mosques are breeding grounds for terrorism, she said.

A recent study on religion and public life by the Pew Research Center indicated that attitudes about Muslims and Islam have deteriorated. Research revealed that 45 percent of those surveyed believed Islam is more likely to encourage violence than other religions.

"Some Muslims are abusing Islam by doing acts of violence, fortunately not in this country, but elsewhere in the world," Siddiqi said. "Because of that, people have problems and are generalizing Islam."

Kamal Famsa, 40, of Huntington Beach, who attended the service in Garden Grove, said American views of Muslims shifted drastically after Sept. 11. Though he never experienced the backlash that some Muslims endured, Famsa said he did notice a palpable change.

"Considering what happened, it's a normal reaction," said Famsa, who emigrated from Syria 22 years ago. "I think 9/11 was so drastic that I can see people going into this anger. I am disappointed that after the initial shock is over … people still have blind hatred towards Islam."

Contact the writer: 714-704-3788 or epak@ocregister.com

Rep. King: "Too Many Mosques in This Country."

Rep. King, what's your Final Solution to the Muslim problem?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Rep. Ellison Slams King’s Anti-Muslim Comment

Barbara Ferguson, Arab News

WASHINGTON, 23 September 2007 — Rep. Keith Ellison, the first US Muslim Congressman, reacted strongly to this week’s statement by his Republican counterpart, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who said in an interview last week that there are “too many” mosques in the United States and urged a more aggressive law enforcement approach toward them...

Ellison was attending an Iftar held at the Council on American Islamic Relations on Thursday in honor of Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary general of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, who was in Washington meeting with lawmakers in Congress before traveling to New York where he will speak at the United Nations.

“Rep. King’s remarks that there “are too many mosques in the US” cuts into the basis of the US Constitution, which guarantees all Americans freedom of their religion,” Ellison told Arab News...

In the US, you can practice any religion you want. This is guaranteed by both the Constitution and the 1st Amendment,” said Ellison, 44, following prayers and Iftar at CAIR’s Washington headquarters.

“While we have some people in Congress who make offensive comments, it is important for us, as Muslims, to lift the level of debate, and demonstrate the true character of Islam,” said Ellison.

“The comment by Rep. King was surely heard throughout the Muslim world, and I think it undermines our national security because it gives people who are really hostile to the US — terrorists and murders — recruiting tools.”

Ellison, who converted from Catholicism to Sunni Islam at age nineteen, while attending university, said: “There is nothing about Islam that should be associated with terrorism, and nothing about terrorism that should be association with Islam.

“The US has the right to defend itself, but not to insult Muslims. This statement by Rep. King is insulting to all Muslims, and also to all people who believe in religious pluralism, the Jeffersonian tradition and those that support tolerance.”

Asked if people were tolerant to him, the first Muslim congressman, Ellison said: “People here have been overwhelmingly tolerant of me.”

Then returning to King, he said: “Please tell your readers that Rep. King represents a very small minority view, but — because his comments were so inflammatory — they get a lot of attention.

“Just as we [Muslims] don’t want to be judged by the actions of a small [extremist] minority, I ask the Muslim world not to judge Congress by the remarks of one congressman.”...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The "King" of bigotry

A DNC Statement

DNC Condemns Congressman Peter King's Comments and Calls on Rudy Giuliani to Fire His Homeland Security Adviser

Washington, DC - The Democratic National Committee today condemned Peter King's statement that there are "too many mosques in this country," and called on Rudy Giuliani to fire King as his homeland security adviser. King is on Giuliani's Homeland Security Advisory Board and according to the New York Post is a "top adviser".

"Congressman King's comments are deplorable and he should apologize immediately. This type of bigoted language has no place in public discourse, especially from the Republican's top lawmaker on the House Homeland Security Committee," said Democratic National Committee Press Secretary Stacie Paxton.

"Will Rudy Giuliani denounce Peter King's comments and fire King as his homeland security adviser? Given Rudy's history of using divisive tactics, he shouldn't be placing his trust in an adviser who seems to think an individual's religion is the problem with our homeland security. Scapegoating a group of Americans to win elections is an ugly Republican campaign tactic Americans have already rejected. Our country was founded on the principle of religious freedom. Religious profiling and discrimination have no place in our country."

Peter King Is A Member Of Giuliani's Presidential Campaign. Peter King is on Giuliani's Homeland Security Advisory Board. The New York Post described King as a top advisor to Rudy Giuliani. King endorsed Giulianis presidential bid in January 2007. [JoinRudy2008.com, , 09/04/07; New York Post, 09/05/07; Newsday (New York), 1/30/07]

Republican Rep. Peter King Tells The Politico There Are "Too Many Mosques in This Country." New York Rep. Peter King, a prominent House Republican, said there are "too many mosques in this country" in a recent interview with Politico. "There are too many people sympathetic to radical Islam," King said. "We should be looking at them more carefully and finding out how we can infiltrate them." [Politco.com, 9/19/07]

To watch the King interview go to: