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

Monday, February 26, 2007

An Oasis called airport chapel

Like a thirsty desert wanderer seeking an oasis, I seek airpot chapels. My work requires from me frequent traveling across the country with stops for connecting flights in Houston, Denver, or Chicago - three airports that I like because they each have a chapel.

I now choose specific flights and airlines to ensure that I land at certain terminals close to the chapel. Those chapels are my pit stop to refuel on my spiritual energy. They help provide me with the private space to perform my prescribed prayers (Muslims offer five obligatory daily prayers that fall throughout the day) and if time permits, read some Quran. After a long flight, crammed between tight airplane rows, surviving seat neighbors who confused you for their therapist, and digesting the generous peanut meals, one can use a chapel.

If you have not figured it out yet, I love chapels.

As soon as the airplane lands, I rush out to the restroom to freshen up with an ablution (pre-prayer Muslim wash up, called Wudu'). Then I head to the chapel. Just the scene of the chapel sign brings peace to my mind that my link with Allah/God is getting near. What a relief. For Muslims, the prayer is called Salat which literally means "link" because it is a time to link and connect with our Creator.

So next, I enter the chapel and sign my name in the guest book to make sure that the chapel managers and care takers know how much I appreciate what they offer us travelers through this chapel. "God Bless you" is what I comment next to my name on the book. Indeed, I am so grateful to them. I also do my share in sending a humble donation in response to those chapels' mail solicitation. Keep in mind, most chapels depend on the support of their visitors and the local nonprofit organizations.

The chapel consists of a small room with chairs and a podium. It is open and is regularly used by people of all religious backgrounds. In respect of individual beliefs, no religious symbols are present in the room. However, the religious books of each faith and prayer mats for Muslims are available. A sign shows the direction for the Qibla (direction to Makkah).

I extend the mat and offer the Salat (prayer), then sit to read from the Qur'an or just enjoy a few moments of quiet, peace and relaxation. I can not describe the feeling of rejuvenation. I am now ready for my next flight. It is not uncommon to see a Christian kneeling for a prayer or reading the Bible while a Muslim is close by prostrating during a prayer. What a pleasant scene of spirituality and mutual respect.

In case you are interested, I learned that the first airport chapel was established in 1950 at Boston’s Logan International Airport to provide a place where airport employees and travelers could fulfill their worship obligations.

According to a USA Today article, "about three dozen U.S. airports — including most of the big ones — have chapels or chaplains." Therefore, the next time you travel, chances are there is a chapel near you. Try it. You might fall in love with chapels too. One does not survive on airport smoothies and food alone.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Who dares to use the "A" word

Every topic and issue is open to discussion and debate in America. We can debate our occupation of Iraq. We can debate religion. We can debate God's existence. We can debate and dissent with our President's views and decisions. However, one dares not debate Israel and its policies. One dares not describe Israel's discriminatory practices using the "A" word.

The "A" word? You might ask.

Yes, the "A" word. I am talking about "Apartheid".

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines "Apartheid" as:
"racial segregation; specifically : a former policy of segregation and political and economic discrimination against non-European groups in the Republic of South Africa."

Many independent and objective experts and observers have pointed to the many similarities between the practices of the former Republic of South Africa against the indigenous Black Africans and those of the Israeli government against the indigenous Palestinians.

However, every one who has dared to speak out on this topic has had to deal with a vicious campaign of defamation and intimidation. Such campaigns aim to silence every attempt to debate the Middle East conflict and to make a lesson out of those who dare to suggest such a debate. Ironically, it is politically safer even for our politicians to be critical of our own government than of Israel!

The political lynching of President Jimmy Carter for daring to use the word Apartheid in his new book is a good example of how even a former president is not allowed to debate Israel and its policies. Extremist supporters of Israel labeled President Carter as an anti-Semite.

(Show support for President Carter. Order the book and read it. Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid )

Our country's national security requires that we objectively debate whether our unconditional support for Israel and its policies are harming our credibility and standing in the world.

Our values and principles demand that we stand for justice and peace and speak out against racism, occupation, and all forms of injustice, regardless of who the victims or the aggressors are.

All people of the Middle East, Muslims, Christians, and Jews, are counting on our courage and moral values to end the occupation, promote dialogue, and support a just peace. We can't let them down out of fear of being criticized by extremists, on all sides.

Let's first begin by challenging the Apartheid practices. I encourage you to visit the website of US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and learn about their efforts and their new anti-Apartheid campaign.


"In the West Bank, in the
occupied territories, a horrible
example of apartheid is being
perpetrated against the
Palestinians who live there.
Israel has penetrated and
occupied, confiscated and
colonized major portions of the
territory belonging to the
CNN, November 28, 2006

"The UN took a strong stand
against apartheid; and over
the years, an international
consensus was built, which
helped to bring an end to
this iniquitous system. But
we know too well that our
freedom is incomplete
without the freedom of the
Pretoria, December 4, 1997


"I've been very deeply
distressed in my visit to
the Holy Land; it
reminded me so much of
what happened to us
black people in South
The Guardian, April 29, 2002

All people deserve to be treated with fairness and respect. Let's do our part to ensure that happens.

More to read:
Parallels Between Apartheid in South Africa & Israeli Policies
A Closer Look at Israel’s Apartheid Policies
Israel's apartheid - By Flore de Préneuf
Israel, Apartheid and Jimmy Carter - By Saree Makdisi