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

Friday, April 27, 2007

Racial profiling is not smart (it is actually stupid!)

Racial profiling is an ineffective tool for preventing crimes. It is actually a stupid tool that gives us a false sense of security because criminals and terrorists do not belong to one race, they come in all colors and races.

Only lazy or incompetent law enforcement agencies use racial profiling to fight crime. Such use ends up alienating targeted innocent communities (whose help is needed the most) and making it easier for criminals who don't fit the racial profile to operate in that region. Terrorist groups are quickly learning to by-pass racial profiling.

Watch a good example in this funny short video.

To read more on the topic:

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Pro-Israel groups target American Muslims

An interesting article from InFocus, a local newspaper

By Aisha Aziz, Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES -- American Muslims and Muslim groups have long been a target of harassment and vilification from right-wing pro-Israel groups, a recent front-page article in the New York Times has exposed. Such forces, according to government sources, have used guilt by association to spread suspicion about Islam and Muslims, and in turn, kept Muslims out of mainstream American discourse and stripped them of their influence in the political and social arenas.
One group in particular, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), has attracted widespread attention for working aggressively for Muslims’ civil rights, calling for interfaith dialogue and taking candid positions on issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Iraq war...

For its part, CAIR officials say such attacks seek to marginalize the American Muslim voice and disenfranchise this minority.

"There is a well-coordinated attempt by extremist pro-Israel circles to silence American Muslims on issues ranging from Islam, to foreign policy, to civil rights and national security," said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of CAIR’s southern California office. "If standing up for truth and justice makes CAIR controversial, then by all means, we are proud and honored to be controversial. In their day, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela were deemed controversial, too."...

Federal officials reported to the Times that CAIR’s Washington office "frequently issued controversial statements that made it hard for senior government figures to be associated with the group, particularly since some pro-Israeli lobbyists have created what one official called a "cottage industry" of attacking the group and anyone dealing with it."

Last summer, the group called for a stop to arms shipment to Israel as its military continued the invasion of Lebanon. In August, it sponsored a panel discussion highlighting how the power of the pro-Israel lobby harms the United States and negatively affects its policy on the Middle East, and in September, CAIR organized a dinner in honor of former Iranian President Mohamed Khatami.

"Traditionally within the government there is only one point of view that is acceptable, which is the pro-Israel line," said Nihad Awad, a founder of CAIR and its executive director, to the Times. "Another enlightened perspective on the conflict is not there, and it causes some discomfort."

Another extremist pro-Israel critic of Muslim organizations is Daniel Pipes, who makes no attempt to hide the real reasons that fuel his Islamophobia. Speaking at an American Jewish Congress convention in 2001, he said, "I worry very much from the Jewish point of view that the presence, and increased stature, and affluence, and enfranchisement of American Muslims...will present true dangers to American Jews."...

While groups driven by foreign agendas attempt to marginalize American Muslim organizations, government and law enforcement officials are increasingly reaching out to the Muslim community and recognizing their contributions to society as a whole.

At CAIR Southern California chapter’s fundraising banquet last November, nearly 2,000 people attended, including J. Stephen Tidwell, the director of the FBI’s Los Angeles office.

"I am very excited to be here," Mr. Tidwell told an Arab Radio and Television (ART) reporter, calling CAIR "an important bridge for the FBI into the Muslim, Arab-American community."

Friday, April 13, 2007

Leading American Rabbi speaks against Islamophobia

By: Rabbi Arthur Waskow


Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Ph. D., founded (in 1983) and directs The Shalom Center, a prophetic voice in jewish, multireligious, and American life, which brings Jewish and other spiritual thought and practice to bear on seeking peace, pursuing justice, healing the earth, and celebrating community. He edits and writes for its weekly on-line Shalom Report.

In 1996, Waskow was named by the United Nations a Wisdom Keeper among forty religious and intellectual leaders who met in connection with the Habitat II conference in Istanbul. In 2001, he was presented with the Abraham Joshua Heschel Award by the Jewish Peace Fellowship. In 2005, The Forward national Jewish newspaper named him one of the Forward Fifty -- fifty Jews who were contributing most to the community -- and in 2007, Newsweek magaziune named him as one of the fifty most inFluential American rabbis.



Dear friends,

Sometimes the earth on which we stand begins to shake, uncontrollably. We can respond with measured concern, even fear, and reach out for help to each other; or we can respond with panic and rage against anyone we think might be responsible for the earthquake. We can try to grab on to some "immovable" strong point - or we can learn to dance, with each other, in the earthquake.

Recently there have been several important moments when various parts of the "official" established American Jewish organizational structure have been feeling they are living in a totally unexpected earthquake (see below for its description), and some have responded with panic, lashing out at some imagined "cause."

One form that took was attacking some progressive Jews as "enablers" of anti-Semitism. Another it has taken - one I found myself dealing with in my own life this past week, not just on paper -- is attacking some Muslim organizations and trying to keep mainstream American politicians from treating them as parts of our democratic fabric.

So I will tell the story, which is both important in itself and a micro-version of the bigger problem.

About a month ago, I was invited to speak at the first annual dinner of the Pennsylvania chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), evidently because I had taken part in a pray-in to protest against the exclusion of a group of imams from flying - and maybe because I also knew and was known by Iftekhar Hussain, head of the Pennsylvania chapter.

At that point the only CAIR folks I knew were Iftekhar and Ahmed Bedir, who leads a Florida chapter of CAIR. Him I knew through the Tent of Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah, the group of Jews, Christians and Muslims, that has been meeting for almost four years and has initiated a series of multireligious projects.

They include the "Sacred Season of Shared Sacred Seasons," which this fall continues when Ramadan, the High Holy Days, Worldwide Communion Sunday, and the Feast of St. Frances are intertwined) and a book of which I'm co-author with Sister Joan Chittister and Murshid Saadi Shakur Chisti, The Tent of Abraham: Stories of Hope and Peace for Jews, Christians and Muslims (Beacon, 2006).

I respect both Iftekhar and Ahmed deeply, and know them for compassionate, intelligent, and peaceful people, bringing a wise and compassionate understanding of Islam to work for justice and peace in America. So I readily said Yes.

Since I knew little about National CAIR, I did some reading - especially of a major article in the NY Times on ways they were being harassed, often by right-wing organizations in the Jewish community who claimed they were associated with terrorists. But the article made clear that CAIR works with the Federal government, is respected by Federal law-enforcement agencies, and speaks out strongly for civil liberties and human rights. Not a terrorist profile. For the whole article, see ---


My careful reading of the Times article and my browsing on the CAIR Website strongly indicated that attacks on CAIR have little or no substance and are based on the kind of innuendo and strings of X to Y to Z to A that made infamous the names of Joe McCarthy and Roy Cohn.

Just as I was being invited to speak, so was Congressman (and former Admiral) Joe Sestak, newly elected to Congress from a suburban Philadelphia district on a strong antiwar platform. He accepted.

And then some Jews in his congressional district complained. They urged him to renege.

So I not only said yes to my own speaking, I wrote encouraging Congressman Sestak to continue with the courage and good sense he had already shown in treating Philadelphia CAIR and its members as full members and participants in the democratic process, to be honored by him as well as to honor him.

So now let me report on the dinner itself, this past Saturday evening -- and on its aftermath - especially a half-bottomed story in the Philadelphia Inquirer and my letter to the editor about it.

Sestak did speak, both affirming the Muslim presence and activism in America and urging some changes in CAIR's positions. He received a standing ovation.

AND there was a protest band of three or four picketers, all Jewish, outside the hall, angry that Sestak was speaking. A larger number of Jews attended as supporters, including another rabbi besides me; and there was a supportive letter from one additional rabbi in the printed program, and a supportive ad from a smallish activist Jewish organization, Jewish Voice for Peace.

I spoke as a religious Jew committed to peace between Israel and Palestine and to peace between the United States and the Muslim world -- speaking to religious Muslims who strongly applauded my call for renewed dedication to a peaceful two-state Israel-Palestinian peace settlement. They strongly applauded my remarks about the need for each single one of us members of the family of Abraham to feel personally wounded when any member of the family kills another.

Former Ambassador Ed Peck gave the keynote address. Some of his family were Jewish, and were murdered in the Holocaust. Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania gave a warm and warmly received speech. He is himself Jewish and has excellent relations with both the Jewish and Muslim communities in Philadelphia.

Yet the article that appeared next day in the Philadelphia Inquirer, on the lead space in the Metropolitan section, spun the event into a seeming collision between the Jewish community and CAIR. None of the supportive Jewish presences -- people, speeches, program book -- were reported in the article. Rendell's presence was barely mentioned. Peck was not mentioned at all.

And while the article reported the utterly uncorroborated assertions by two local Jews that CAIR "has connections to terrorists," it did not report that in fact CAIR speaks out strongly against terrorist attacks by Muslims.

Feeling that this kind of reporting gives credence to McCarthyesqe lies, I wrote both the reporter who wrote the story and a Letter to the Editor. The latter (nibbled a good bit around the edges by the Inquirer's editors, and with one very important missing piece) was published this morning, along with a parallel letter from a Muslim who had attended the dinner and who praised Jewish "moderates [who] represent the true voice of the Jewish community."

The piece missing from my letter had pointed out how reporting a slander without the facts refuting it is a way of giving credence to the kind of falsehood that besmirched the names of McCarthy and Cohn.

And this is perhaps the most important fact about the whole affair. For this event does not, unfortunately, stand alone. Recently, in California, Senator Barbara Boxer "rescinded" an award for active democratic citizenship she had given to a CAIR worker, after pressure from some limited parts pf the Jewish community. When there was a rousing protest against her rescinding the award, she retreated into silence.

Why is this sort of thing happening?

One response to finding one's self shaken by an earthquake of change is - panic. Not reasoned and measured concern or even fear integrated into an effective response, but unreasoning and often self-destructive panic. And one form THAT takes is lashing out against anyone perceived to be connected with the earthquake. Lashing out through slander intended to delegitimate anyone who suggests another way of dealing with the earthquake.

Many Americans responded in this way after 9/11. The Iraq War and the suspension of many age-old civil liberties and human rights - habeas corpus, the right to an attorney, the right to know what charges are being made, the right not to be tortured - were "justified" and enabled by that panic.

And - especially since the Israeli government's 2006 invasion of Lebanon and its abject failure, especially since the discovery that if military force is the only choice the Israeli government makes as a way to protect Israel, then Israel's heartland cities like Haifa can come under attack - there is a similar kind of spreading sense of dislocation, earthquake, panic among the officials of some American Jewish institutions. Their assumptions of invulnerability begin to unravel.

One response might be to rethink the assumption that military domination is the wisest path to security. But most of them have found it easier, at least in the short run, to circle the military wagons and press on with more of the same.

Slander is a quasi-military response if in fact you cannot use outright violence (and American Jewish institutions, short perhaps of the Jewish Defense League and its heirs, cannot). Slander is intended to terrorize at the political and psychological level, to make people shut up. (In the old Jewish phrase, "l'havdil" - let's be clear this is not the same thing as the terrorism of blowing up a pizzeria.)

If the troubling folks shut up, maybe the earthquake will go away.

For the American Jewish Committee, this took the form of attacking a slew of Jewish progressives, many of them creators of life-filled and rejuvenating forms of Jewish cultural and spiritual renewal, as "enablers" of anti-Semitism because they do not share the notion that the State of Israel is the be-all and end-all of Jewish life and future.

For others in the official Jewish institutional structure, it means attacking not only CAIR -a Muslim group that condemns the use of terrorism by Muslims - but also any American politician who treats CAIR or other Muslim groups or for that matter the newly bubbling Jewish peace groups as legitimate parts of the democratic process.

For Jewish Republicans, that attempt at shutting people up has the added benefit of trying to frighten and defeat some politicians who (like Congressman Sestak) oppose the Iraq war in part because they have a broader view of how to deal with the Middle East.

Of course I am not saying that CAIR is perfect, that I always agree with it, or that there is no point in Muslims and Jews not only listening to each other and encouraging each other but also arguing, debating, dialoguing, wrestling with each other - in both directions, neither just Jews nor just Muslims insisting on their own perceptions as the only reasonable ones.

At the dinner itself, there were certain phrases used by one of the CAIR speakers that troubled me. I began a conversation about them, and will continue.

Aside from phrases, there is one outlook of CAIR's that has led to criticism. CAIR strongly condemns terrorist actions, but not whole organizations.

To many American Jews, its unwillingness to make a blanket condemnation of Hamas or Hezbollah seems contradictory, if it really opposes terrorism - because most US Jews, and the US Government, define Hezbollah and Hamas as simply terrorist groups.

But CAIR points to the complex reality in which both groups are simultaneously woven of strands that include social-service organizations with schools and medical clinics, etc.; political parties; friendship groups and ethno-religious communities; police forces; and military / terrorist agents. Much of the non-military parts of this complex, in both organizations, meets real needs on the ground, and much of it is woven into Palestinian or Lebanese society.

Indeed, there is considerable evidence that inside Hamas, at least, there are different sub-groups with competing views and policies about terror and violence. Careful ethical challenges to the use of terror could actually help strengthen the peaceful forces. So CAIR's view is that to condemn the whole organization outright, as distinct from specific terrorist actions, is to demonize all its parts instead of trying to peel away the disgusting actions that CAIR does oppose.

To me this view roused some interesting echoes of my own criticisms of parts of the so-called Left that attack Israel - the whole society or its whole government - instead of condemning specific aggressive and oppressive policies and actions of the Israeli government.

Perhaps there is some way to condemn specific actions while naming, but not condemning, the organizations that are partly involved - as I do when I condemn particular actions of the Israeli government, naming it while not attacking the government as a whole.

There will be enormous value in pursuing such discussions with each other, once more learning deeply what it means to stand in the shoes of "the Other," dancing in the quaking circle of reality.

What does NOT help is slander and intimidation. The earthquake in which we all live is frightening, and we are more likely to survive and grow by dancing in it together rather than trying to scare others into leaving the dance floor.

So I am hopeful that the dinner last week is a spark of light. Far from showing irreparable conflict between the Jewish community and CAIR, in fact the dinner showed that a seriously peace-committed part of the Jewish community can work with a seriously peace-committed part of the Muslim community, despite the existence of some violence-supportive people in both communities.

That is the truthful and the important story.

And that is the future we need to create. Dancing -- with each other -- in the earthquake.

Shalom, salaam -- -
Rabbi Arthur Waskow
Co-author, The Tent of Abraham;
Director, The Shalom Center

Monday, April 09, 2007

Mend growing West-Islam rift by reading, taking trips abroad

Commentary by Hussam Ayloush
Published in the Press-Enterprise, 4/8/07

With the rapid spread of misinformation on the Internet and TV, and the destructive conflict in the Middle East, no one can afford to ignore a widening cultural, religious and political divide between the West and Islam.

Zogby International and the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies conducted polls in six "friendly" Muslim countries and reported that only 12 percent of respondents had a positive attitude toward the United States. Similarly, a Gallup survey reported that nearly 40 percent of Americans admitted to having some prejudice toward Muslims.

However, according to a BBC World Service poll across 27 countries, a majority of Muslims and Christians believe that the problem mostly derives from political conflict rather than a conflict in values or culture. They also believe that Muslims, non-Muslims and Westerners reject the idea that violent division is inevitable between Islam and the West.

Many people in the world, including Americans, strongly disagree with our government's foreign policies -- such as the Iraq war, and unconditional support for Israel and dictatorships in the Middle East. Those policies cause some in the Muslim world to falsely blame all Americans for the administration's policies.

Unfortunately, people fear what they don't know. So, the key to bridging the cultural and religious gap between Muslim countries and the West is to facilitate discourse, support interaction and reject stereotyping. This will foster the right atmosphere to resolve the political grievances.

For starters, we should encourage tourism and student exchanges. Americans should break bread and sip tea with Muslims, and visit countries such as Turkey, Egypt and Morocco that are rich in cultural history. Muslims in Senegal, Indonesia, Lebanon and China should visit Western countries. Such exchanges bring about learning and appreciation of other cultures.

Another effective tool in bridging the divide is good, old-fashioned reading. Read books by Rumi, Ibn Khaldun, Mark Twain and Maya Angelou. Read the Quran. Read the Bible. We should step out of our comfort zones and explore the world beyond our street corners.

Americans have an advantage, in that corporations have successfully exported our culture to the rest of the world. People all over the world are familiar with American products and culture. Sadly, this hasn't encouraged us to learn about other cultures.

Such lack of education becomes critical when dealing with the Muslim world, especially as extremists from all sides seek to widen the divide with the West.

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

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

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Muslims React to Pelosi's Visit to Mideast

For a week now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, accompanied by a small bipartisan group of members of Congress, has been visiting several countries in the Middle East. Unlike typical visits by Bush administration officials which are usually characterized as meetings to deliver an ultimatum, a warning, a patronizing lecture, or a war threat, this visit was described as a visit for dialogue and peace.

Indeed, the visit not only included the usual meetings with public officials, but also scheduled visits to Muslim, Christian, and Jewsih religious sites, touring popular markets, and face-to-face interaction with common people on the street.

The visit projected a true image of our country that has long been overshadowed by the arrogant and war-mongering rhetoric of the neo-cons and their representatives in this Administration.

People of the Middle East were touched and amazed to hear and meet an American leader who spoke about mutual respect, dialogue, peace, and friendship. For a while, they had gotten the impression that we Americans were only interested in wars, invasions, occupation, oil, insulting Islam, and selfishly looking after our own (corporations') interests, no matter what the human, moral and economic costs might be.

Pelosi and her team reminded the world that we in America still stand for all the good things people hope for. We stand for everyone's true freedom, not only ours. We stand for peace, not war. We stand for tolerance and cooperation, not polarization and division. We stand for democracy and human rights, not Guantanamo and torture.

Pelosi's visit has dusted off from an old but effective U.S. foreign policy tool called diplomacy.
Lately, the only foreign policy tool used by this administration has been war or the threat of war. Dialogue and diplomacy undermine the radicals on all sides and help resolve conflicts. Wars, on the other hand, fuel extremism and anger.

I just pray that the Speaker of the House can hold her ground against pressure from the war mongers in our country. The present conflict is not between the West and Islam. Rather, it is rather between those who believe in peace and justice and those extremists who believe in hatred and war. The fact is that both camps include people from all faith backgrounds.

Photo captions. 1) AP - Pelosi accepting dried figs at the Souk (market) in Damascus; 2) Reuters - Pelosi praying at the grave of John the Baptist in the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus; 3) Reuters - Pelosi with Syrian Muslims at the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus.

Below are sample comments from the Arab world. The comments were posted in Arabic on the Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya websites – the two most popular Arab news websites. I did a rough translation.

"This lady (Nancy Pelosi) has all the political experience, humanity, wisdom, and leadership skills to be the next president of the United States of America." -Abu Ahmad

"I firmly believe that Ms. Pelosi has done a great and correct act. Dialogue with Syria is crucial in order to achieve solutions that benefit both American and Syrian peoples. (President) Bush will see in the future that he was wrong in criticizing that trip." - Adnan

"Both sides (Pelosi and Assad) have to close their ears to the calls from the war mongers and they should quickly take initiatives that will stop this festering historical enmity. If there is a war then everyone will lose. If there is peace then everyone will win. Courageous decisions have to be made, even if they seem painful because the majorities among both peoples realize that peace is the solution to all their problems." - Abdul Rahman Al-Alwani

"I stand in respect for Ms. Pelosi for she is a brave person who has a great insight. We know that (to Pelosi) American interests are above any other consideration. What is important is that she came to the Middle East to learn and listen to all parties. (President) Bush resorted to war and this measure was useless. War is destruction. America should work to promote peace in the world so it can lead the world." - Anonymous

"I believe that this is a positive step on the right path towards achieving calm to the volatile Middle East. It is sufficient that this visit shows that there are wise (leaders) in America, and that the bias is not completely towards Israel, but that there are some who try to push things forward." - from Al-Mansoura/Egypt

Here is what American Muslims had to say:


(SANTA CLARA, CA, 4/5/07) - The San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA) today commended House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the spirit of dialogue and mutual respect she exhibited during her visit to the Middle East.

In a statement, CAIR-SFBA said:

"We applaud Speaker Pelosi's initiative to use constructive dialogue as a tool for resolving conflicts. America's stature in the Islamic world has been harmed by the Bush administration's emphasis on the use of military force, or the threat of force, rather than dialogue and diplomacy. Speaker Pelosi's visit to the Middle East is a vital step forward in both improving our nation's international image and building better relations with important nations in that volatile region.

"In particular, Speaker Pelosi's visit to the Umayyad mosque in Damascus will contribute greatly to promoting mutual understanding between the West and the Muslim world. It is through mutual understanding that religious divisions and extremism can be challenged and reduced.

"We urge President Bush to implement the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group by working with Congress and Speaker Pelosi to formulate a new strategy that focuses on diplomacy and dialogue, not military force and belligerent rhetoric."

CAIR-SFBA also commended other Democratic and Republican members of Congress who are making similar visits to the region.