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

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Is dialogue an option with everyone?

I recently published a commentary in which I explained how Muslims share with Christians the love for Jesus. I received dozens of positive messages from Christians who appreciated this piece of information and hoped that it will get the followers of the two largest religions closer.

I also received a handful of hateful or angry messages rejecting such commonality. As always, I try to briefly respond to every message because I do believe that most people hate what they do not understand or correctly know. I try to educate them before I dismiss them as hateful. One has to wonder what else can we do to challenge extremism, on all sides. Sometimes I wonder if dialogue is a possible option with every type of person.

Here is the dead-ended dialogue that followed from one such responses from an anonymous person from New York.


From: R M [mailto: romckri@gmail.com]
Sent: Friday, January 12, 2007 6:38 AM
To: socal
Subject: Jesus and Islam


I hate to inform you but we as Christians (those I know) don't really care that what your thoughts are on Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Son of God more so than the son of Mary but you only speak of Mary as if we don't already know the story. He is more than the son of Mary, Muslim you need to understand that.

Jesus Christ is more than your religion will ever realize or accept and we know this so save us the friendship ads.

I don't suggest you begin this dialog if you don't plan to provide proof of your outrageous claims concerning Jesus Christ, we don't live in fantasy land in this country. And we are not as gullible as you might have been lead to believe. We know more about you and your methods and ideas that you realize.

You are in direct opposition to what Jesus teaches yet you have the audacity to state that you have something in common. Its an outright lie to be frank! And we don't appreciate being lied too...Muslim.

New York


On 1/15/07, Hussam Ayloush wrote:

Thank you RM.

I hate to inform you that most Christians that I know, including many of my relatives, actually really appreciate the fact that we both love and revere Jesus. You are entitled to care or not to care about this fact, it is a free country. However, while we might not agree on how we view Jesus, we should be focusing on working together on our common issues and values instead of focusing on the few differences. I would think that this would be the attitude of Jesus.

Feel free to visit my blog and learn more about our common issues.


Best regards and peace,
Hussam Ayloush


From: R M [mailto:romckri@gmail.com]
Sent: Tuesday, January 16, 2007 10:46 AM
To: Hussam Ayloush
Subject: Re: Jesus and Islam

Give me an example of our 'common issues and values'.

The differences are vitally important! Islam realizes this major difference and attempts to clouds it with a bogus claim that we are somehow similar.

Christianity is based on the FACT that Jesus not only died but rose again on the third day, Islam says no to this (without any proof whatsoever). At least be honest about it, its a Major difference -with a capital M.

You are denying the foundation of Christianity and I should focus on 'common issues', does Islam think they can fool everyone with sweet talk?

We are different and there is no common ground, for its either Jesus or Islam, you know it and I know it so lets not lie about it.

Islam and Christianity can't both be true: One is false and the other the truth. Islam is too afraid to make such a statement but we do and we will.

You can try but I find your religion to be dishonist and misleading to say the least.


On 1/16/07, Hussam Ayloush wrote:

Examples of common values:

honesty, love and care for parents and children, taking care of neighbors, belief in the God of Abraham, belief in almost all Prophets, belief in a Day of Judgment, doing good, helping the poor and the sick, ...

These are enough to keep us busy.

Major theological disagreements on Jesus exist between Christians and Jews, but it does not stop them from cooperating on the common ground. Unlike Jews and all other non-Christian religions, Muslims actually believe that Jesus is the Messiah, Christ, born to a miraculous birth, and the one to have a second coming to bring peace, so I am sure there is much more in common.

It is not about whether one is true or not, it is about finding a way for billions of people to accept the differences and yet cooperate on the many agreements in a way that helps our world.

It is up to you to make such a choice or not. It is a free world.


From: R M [mailto:romckri@gmail.com]
Sent: Wednesday, January 17, 2007 6:32 PM
To: Hussam Ayloush
Subject: Re: Jesus and Islam

You seem so logical and friendly, its very intersting? The men from your religion during 9/11 kept anouncing that everyone on the flight; "should stay calm we are going back to the airport" all the while intended on flying the aircraft into the building. Stay calm, trust us...we are your friends... do you think some of us forgot what happened.

Some foolish American have forgotten but some of us have not forgotten.

I am trying very hard not to go off the deep end but, Islam (again) has nothing whatsoever to do with Christianity or the God of Christian regardless of any of your statements on Abraham or the Prophets you believe. And any Christian who thinks that Islam and Christianity has anything meaningful in common is ignorant of your religion or of Christianity. And I would be willing to prove it to you, because Truth is vital to Christians.

Its interesting to read that truth is not so important to you, well its all that matters to me, so again we really have nothing in common.

No proper Christian will find anything similar with Islam and Christianity, and that's a fact, so it is shocking to me that somehow you know many who see no problem whatsoever. Are they JW or Morons or Catholicts? Because we don't call then Christians for your information.

You might think we have items in common but we would never say so, do you realize that fact. We have nothing meaningful in common with Islam, seriously. Nothing!

Not love, peace, Abraham ...Jesus ...nothing. So you know some names....that is not important, its the message that is important and you have a different message that we will NEVER accept EVER!

We know what to expect from you too as well so realize that. No one is sleeping on this side any longer except for the foolish.


On 1/18/07, Hussam Ayloush wrote:

Hi R.M.

I am not sure how one can respond to such language. I think the best thing for you now is not facts, logic, or counter-hate. What you need is a prayer.
I pray that God Almighty clear your heart from hatred, your mind from ignorance, your tongue from divisiveness, and your eyes from only seeing enemies and fear.

It is a horrible life indeed to be chained with such negativity, to be deprived from inner peace.

You think you know the truth? The truth can not keep someone in the prisons of anger, extremism, hatred, and arrogance. No my friend, the real truth will set you free from all of that, as our beloved Jesus (peace be upon him) said. And you, my friend, are far from being free. You are far from being a true Christian, a true Muslim, a true Jew, or a true caring and free human being.

I made my choice to be free. When you are ready, we can continue this dead-ended dialogue.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Where are all moderate Muslims?

Jan. 13, 2007, 7:03PM
Where are all moderate Muslims?
An answer to what has become a ubiquitous question

I have given hundreds of talks and lectures throughout the Houston area in the past few years on issues of world religion and religion in public life. The question that always comes in the Q&A no matter what the topic, no matter if the audience is liberal or conservative, is "Where are all the moderate Muslims?"

The ubiquity of this question is deeply problematic. Not because the desire for so-called "moderate Muslims" is bad. (It isn't.) Not because the people who ask it are bad or bigoted. (They usually aren't.) The question is problematic because of what it assumes: that Islam is naturally predisposed to extremist interpretation; that most of the up to 10 million Muslims in the United States are not moderate, but radical; that those who claim to be moderate aren't because they don't stand up and denounce the extremists. None of these assumptions is supported by evidence. In fact, evidence exists to the contrary.

Muslim condemnations of terror abound, as even the most rudimentary Google search indicates. Plug in "Muslims condemn 9/11" and take an hour or so to just get started. Or read the Fiqh Council of North America's fatwa against terrorism declared in July 2005 and endorsed by 120 organizations and groups in the United States and Canada. Or go to the Council on American-Islamic Relations Web site to view the 30-second TV public service announcements they created and ran in English, Arabic and Urdu. "Why haven't we seen these things before?" you ask. You might direct that question to your local news outlets. And, given our access to the Internet, maybe we all could take more responsibility for being accurately informed citizens.

We have not had so much as a backpack bomb in this country since 9/11, and it's not because our security measures are so foolproof. Our largely terror-free experience comes because we have a free, prosperous society governed by a stable rule of law that offers tremendous opportunities for life and happiness, including religious expression. Muslims, like so many other religious, ethnic and racial groups in America, are integrated into all areas of life in all parts of the country, all sorts of neighborhoods, in all sorts of professions. They go to work, pay their taxes, raise their kids and participate in faith communities like most other citizens and residents of this country. They peacefully co-exist with others in this demographically pluralistic nation, just like almost everyone else does. They are our neighbors, co-workers, clients, friends and in-laws.

Yet, we act like they've come straight from the burning streets of Baghdad or the caves of Tora Bora with plans to blow us up. We see imams praying in the airport and have them taken off the plane. We see women wearing a hijab get on a bus or subway, and we feel ourselves tense up. Or, as happened recently when I attended a large interfaith dinner here in Houston and the well-known president of a respected Muslim organization got up to bless the food in Arabic, someone at a nearby table said, "We'd better hope he's not calling for jihad!" And in recent days we have seen the ugly episode in Katy with the pig races to protest the construction of a mosque in the area. While concerns about flooding, traffic congestion and building permits are legitimate, the Web site set up to protest the mosque is a virtual tutorial in Islamophobia.

Such things border on the hysterical. According to a recent USA Today article, more than a third of Americans think U.S. Muslims sympathize with al-Qaida and should have to carry special ID cards. This is just a hop, skip and jump from what we did to our Japanese residents and citizens after Pearl Harbor — we rounded them up indiscriminately and sent them to internment camps, a shameful and often hidden episode in our modern history.

We have to stop this. We in Houston and in America are bigger and stronger than to give in to such outlandish demon-izing and scapegoating. We must resist this irrational fear mongering with regard to our Muslim residents and citizens, as we must with all groups who for whatever reason become targets of hatred and bigotry. We cannot allow ourselves to be pawns in the manipulative hands of the most sensation-alist media outlets in our cul-ture. We must stand up for each other in the spirit of decency, tolerance and mutual respect. The very fabric and cohesion of our society is at stake.

Where are all the moderate Muslims? All around us.

Carroll is associate director of the Boniuk Center for Religious Tolerance at Rice University.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Dr. Parvez Ahmed responds to Senator Boxer

Friday, January 05, 2007

Parvez Ahmed
Chairman of the National Board of CAIR

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) recently rescinded an award to Basim Elkarra, the executive director of the Sacramento Valley chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

This disturbing news was met with a flurry of rhetorical high-fives by anti-Muslim extremists in the blogosphere. After Boxer's decision to rescind the award was made public, Elkarra received an e-mailed death threat. That threat is being investigated by the FBI.

But what led Sen. Boxer to rescind the award? The justifications offered range from the amazing to the bizarre.

According to Sen. Boxer's spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz, the senator became "concerned" after she read negative things about CAIR on a virulent anti-Muslim hate site. This despite the fact that the same website describes Sen. Boxer as someone who is "thickheaded" on national security and said, "The nation's dumbest Democrat, Barbara Boxer, has a plan to lose in Iraq."

It is truly disappointing to see Sen. Boxer use such a hate-filled and inflammatory site to form her opinions about CAIR, America's largest Muslim civil liberties group.

Just days before Sen. Boxer announced her decision, a demand for just such an action was issued by Joe Kaufman, an anti-Muslim extremist in Florida who has a long history of seeking to marginalize the Muslim community in that state.
Kaufman has in the past promoted terrorist organizations such as Kach and Kahane Chai on his website. In an article published on the forum of the radical Jewish Defense League in Florida, Kaufman praised the Kahane movement and its founder Mier Kahane by stating, "It was perfectly understandable, if he (Kahane) were to have hated Arabs."

Last year, Kaufman once again demonstrated his anti-Muslim bigotry by joining the call of Rev. O'Neal Dozier (who was subsequently removed from the campaign of Florida Governor Charlie Crist in part because of his bigoted views about Muslims) seeking to block the expansion of a mosque in Pompano Beach. "This mosque should not exist on American shores," said Kaufman." (St. Petersburg Times, 7/14/06)

The senator said she also relied on information from Steven Emerson, a "terrorism expert" with a history of defamatory attacks on CAIR almost since its founding in 1994. Emerson was the commentator who first blamed Muslims for the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma.

Sen. Boxer's decision to rescind the award contradicted her previous positive interactions with CAIR and was made without a single phone call or e-mail seeking a rebuttal to the Internet smears. In the past, CAIR received several letters of commendation from the senator. Members of her staff also attended CAIR events.

While American Muslims have grown used to such behavior from the extreme right, it was shocking to see a progressive politician like Sen. Boxer get caught up in our nation's rising tide of Islamophobia.

Sen. Boxer has now signaled a willingness to meet with CAIR officials both in California and in Washington, D.C. This is certainly welcome news.
CAIR has always taken a principled stand against terrorism and religious extremism.

From issuing a statement of condemnation immediately after the 9/11 attacks, to taking out a full-page ad in the Washington Post dissociating Islam from terrorism, to launching the "Not in the Name of Islam" online petition and public service announcement campaigns, CAIR's initiatives all point to an organization unequivocally opposed to terrorism in all its forms.

Representatives of the FBI are frequent participants at CAIR events nationwide and CAIR regularly conducts sensitivity training for federal and local law enforcement agencies.

In defending Boxer's position, Boxer's office has been using recycled news stories about the convictions of two people who had past associations with CAIR.
One of those people, a volunteer board member of a local CAIR chapter, undertook his actions after terminating his association with CAIR. The other person's activities came after he left his employment at CAIR. Whatever they did or did not do in their private capacities has nothing to do with CAIR. Holding CAIR responsible for the actions of former associates is guilt by association.

CAIR has tens of thousands of members, hundreds of volunteer board members and several dozen paid staff members nationwide. It would be unfair and un-American to hold any organization responsible for the actions of every individual, especially when such actions originate outside the scope of their employment or association.

Unfortunately, the general public's ignorance of their American Muslim neighbors is the oxygen that gives life to Islamophobia.

The reality is that American Muslims make up one of the most productive and law-abiding segments of our society. Recent polls show that nearly nine out of ten American Muslims vote regularly and nearly half volunteer for institutions serving the public (compared to a national average of 29 percent). The same poll indicated that American Muslims have high regard for CAIR.

By acting on smears, distortions and guilt by association, Sen. Boxer has failed her Muslim constituents and has betrayed the progressive values of her party and state.

Despite this disturbing episode, we remain committed to working with Sen. Boxer and with any other public officials who seek to build a better and more tolerant America.







Saturday, January 06, 2007

Senator Barbara Boxer gives in to right-wing Islamophobes

Sen. Boxer rescinds award to Islamic activist
The man represents a group some contend is extremist. Supporters say right-wingers are just trying to silence American Muslims.
By Ashraf Khalil
Los Angeles Times
January 6, 2007

Note: Photo and article from LA Times.

Barbara Boxer has rescinded an award her office gave to a Sacramento Islamic activist after criticism that the group he represents — the Council on American-Islamic Relations — holds extremist views and has ties to international terrorist organizations.

"I'm saying the four words that every elected official hates to say: 'I made a mistake,' " the California Democrat said in a telephone interview Friday. "I hope they won't believe that I did this to hurt the Muslim community…. We just have to be more careful when we reach out."

The U.S. senator's office rescinded a "certificate of achievement" awarded in November to Basim Elkarra, head of the council's Sacramento office. The rare public reversal follows charges from right-wing activists that Boxer was courting Muslim extremists by associating with the group.

The controversy highlights the complexities facing leading American Muslim groups in their dealings with elected officials — and vice versa.

It recalls a similar dispute surrounding a decision by the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission to give an award to Dr. Maher Hathout last fall. A senior advisor to the Muslim Public Affairs Council, Hathout also faced charges of extremism. After a bitter two-week public battle, Hathout narrowly avoided having the award rescinded. In a rare revote, only four of the commission's 14 members voted to reaffirm Hathout, with the majority either absent or abstaining.

Council on American-Islamic Relations officials say they and other Muslim organizations have been targets of an ongoing, and sometimes effective, campaign to silence and marginalize American Muslim voices.

"There is a market for Islamophobia right now," said Hussam Ayloush, head of the council's Southern California office. "It's the same group of right-wing extremists who are interconnected and feed off each other and keep recycling the same allegations."

The controversy started when Joe Kaufman, a Florida-based activist and longtime critic of the group, posted an online article attacking the award to Elkarra. Kaufman, who runs a website called CAIRwatch.com, has long contended that the council actively encourages and supports groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah — both of which are on the U.S. government's terrorism watch lists.

"We believe this organization should be shut down and that no elected leaders should have anything to do with them," Kaufman said.

One of the largest American Muslim political groups, the council has seen its profile and membership soar in the last five years. The group had only eight offices as of Sept. 11, 2001. It now has 32, along with an active lobbying arm based in Washington, D.C.

Founded in 1994, the council describes itself as the country's leading Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization. Its local chapters have tax-exempt nonprofit status, and its leaders deny any ties to Hezbollah or Hamas.

Boxer, who said she was unaware of the initial decision by her office to honor Elkarra, said independent research by her office later revealed troubling information about the organization.

"It's the volume of things, not any one thing," she said. "There's a long list."

That list includes several individual council members who have been indicted on terrorism-related charges, as well as harsh criticism of the organization by some of Boxer's congressional colleagues. In 2003, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said the council was "unusual in its extreme rhetoric and its associations with groups that are suspect."

In recent years the council has drawn a carefully calibrated line on terrorism — strongly criticizing individual attacks and suicide bombings but refusing to label Hamas or Hezbollah as terrorist organizations.

It's also quick to condemn Israeli attacks in Lebanon and the occupied territories and label them as terrorism against civilians.

That criticism of Israel, council officials say, is what's really fueling the campaign against their group. Nothing short of endorsing Israeli policy, they say, will spare them from allegations of extremism.

"The minute we criticize Israel, then we become a nonmoderate group," Ayloush said. "You become public enemy No. 1."

The group also has a complicated relationship with federal law enforcement agencies. Former FBI counterterrorism chief Steven Pomerantz once said the council's activities "effectively give aid to international terrorist groups."

But council representatives say they frequently meet with senior FBI officials, and the group has helped train FBI agents in how to interact with the American Muslim community.

Kaufman, who regularly contributes to the influential website frontpagemag.com, denies assertions that he's seeking to defame all Muslim groups. But he also said that none of the major American Muslim organizations qualify as moderates in his view. The website touts a variety of publications, such as "Big Lies: Demolishing the Myths of the Propaganda War Against Israel" and "The Truth About Muhammad, Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion."

The council has responded to Boxer's snub by demanding a meeting with the senator — an option Boxer said she would welcome — and rallying supporters of various faiths. Among those supporters is Elizabeth Sholes, director of public policy for the California Council of Churches, who has worked personally with Elkarra in Sacramento.

"They've issued multiple declarations against extremism and violence both in the Middle East and in the America Muslim community," Sholes said of the Muslim council. "I have found them in every instance to be absolutely dedicated to the issues of peace and justice."

The Muslim council is also encouraging supporters to contact Boxer's offices to protest the decision. A spokeswoman for Boxer said that as of Friday afternoon, the senator's offices in Washington and California have received 19 calls on the issue — 15 of them against the decision to rescind the award.

But Ayloush acknowledged that the situation represents a setback for the group's attempts to make inroads into American government and society.

"For us, the award has little value," Ayloush said. "It's the symbolism of a progressive Democrat giving in to pressure from right-wing Islamophobes."


Muslim community celebrates hajj

Muslim community celebrates hajj, follows rituals of Eid-al-Adha

By Mona Shadia, Daily Bulletin, January 4, 2007

When seen from above, it's like an ocean of pilgrimage: nearly 2.5 million Muslims in white clothing, standing side by side and chanting, "I'm here, God, at your service."

On Saturday, Muslims gathered at the Corona-Norco Islamic Society ISCN to pray and celebrate Eid-al-Adha. Children were following in their elder's foot steps, running toward the mosque wearing colorful new clothing. Muslims sang, prayed and greeted one another and wished each other a blessed holiday and a blessed year.

"Hajj is a remembrance of the prophet Abraham and his family's commitment to God," said Hussam Ayloush, executive director for the Southern California's Council on American Islamic Relations. "Every ritual of hajj is a remembrance to the dedication and strong faith and everything he went through."

Hajj is the last of the five pillars of Islam. Muslims are called on to perform hajj once in their lifetime if physically and financially capable.

And Muslims here at home and around the world join the pilgrims in Mecca by celebrating following the hajj.

"It feels good to be around the Muslims and it's a special event for us," said Suhale Sikander of Corona.

His 7-year-old son, Zayn, smiled while holding his hand and said, "I was praying."

For many, the celebration is a way to get together and to represent Muslims and Islam, said Asma Mansoor of Corona.

For Muslims, the prophet Abraham is considered to be the father of Islam and the father of all prophets. His life and legend are remembered through the demonstration of hajj every year in Saudi Arabia, Ayloush said....