About Me

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Hussam has been a lifelong human rights activist who is passionate about promoting democratic societies, in the US and worldwide, in which all people, including immigrants, workers, minorities, and the poor enjoy freedom, justice, economic justice, respect, and equality. Mr. Ayloush frequently lectures on Islam, media relations, civil rights, hate crimes and international affairs. He has consistently appeared in local, national, and international media. Full biography at: http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2006/08/biography-of-hussam-ayloush.html

Saturday, May 19, 2007

"I decided to murder an Arab"

Earlier this week, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that a French Jewish man, a recent immigrant to Israel and who recently became religious, confessed to the murder of a 35-year-old Arab taxi driver in Jerusalem.

"I decided to murder an Arab," the suspect told police.

This tragic hate crime served as sad reminder of what hatred can do. Hatred can push some to only see enemies in people who are different than them. It tends to hold a whole group responsible for the act of one or a few. Hatred dehumanizes the other and legitimizes their oppression. Hatred is the natural result of fanaticism and extremism.

When it comes to religious fanaticism or terrorism, right-wing pundits and even media would like us to believe that there is only one kind: the one claiming links to Islam.

It is an acceptable fact that there is a tiny minority of radicals who choose to interpret Islam and its peaceful teachings in the most austere and extreme way. Some of those extremists manipulate the Islamic religious texts to justify their aggression or the targeting of innocent people. For the record, the overwhelming majority of Muslims and almost all Muslim scholars have rejected such twisted interpretations and have exposed their contradiction to mainstream and traditional Islamic teachings.

However, such trends are not unique to Islam. Extremism and radicalism is not an Islamic defect. It is a human one. No matter which ideology, political or religious, there are always those who opt to take an extreme view when it comes to practice. Old and recent history presents us with ample evidence.

The Crusades and the Inquisitions were centuries-long manifestation of a fanatic and violent mis-interpretation of Christianity that took the lives of millions of Muslims, Jews, and other Christians.

The genocide in Bosnia against Muslims and Croats (Catholics) conducted by the Serbs was falsely labeled by the Serb extremists as an Orthodox Christian campaign to cleanse Greater Serbia.

The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda is fighting to overthrow the Ugandan Government and replace it with a "Christian" government based on the Bible and the Ten Commandments. The brutal guerrilla is responsible for the killing, raping, torturing, and maiming of tens of thousands of Uganda civilians.

In September of 1982, Lebanese Christian Phalangist militia entered the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in Beirut and murdered anywhere between 700 to 3,000 unarmed civilians. The massacre was committed by a group that claimed to be the soldiers of Christianity in Lebanon and was authorized and logistically supported by the Israeli army which had invaded Lebanon and surrounded the camps in 1982. That Israeli army also claims to be the defenders of Judaism in Israel. Of course, for most Muslims, neither one of those two religions can be held responsible for such a crime, even if the perpetrators falsely insist that they were doing so in the name of their religion.

Extremist Jewish settlers (as well as the Israeli army) in the West Bank/Palestine routinely engage in terrorizing innocent Palestinians through violence, murder, theft of land, and uprooting and destruction of trees and farmland. One of the first suicide/homicide attacks in that country was committed by a fanatic Jewish settler from New York. In 1994, the settler, Dr. Baruch Goldstein, committed the Hebron Massacre in the city of Hebron, killing 29 attendants of the Ibrahimi Mosque and wounding another 150 in a shooting attack. Goldstein also belonged to the Jewish Defense League (JDL), a U.S.-based terrorist group which has engaged in numerous terrorist activities across America.

Of course, who can forget the senseless terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. 19 terrorists hijacked 4 commercial airplanes and flew them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and ground in Pennsylvania killing close to 3,000 innocent people. Those attacks were falsely claimed by those murderers to be perpetrated "to defend oppressed Muslims and retaliate against U.S. policies." Muslim scholars and leaders immediately rejected such un-Islamic and immoral actions and strongly condemned the perpetrators and their radical ideology.

The truth is that Islam and most Muslims are not responsible for such crimes any more than Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism or any other religion and its followers are responsible for the crimes committed by the minority of violent extremists who claim to follow each of the respective religions, but yet act in complete contradiction to the teachings.

The solution is for all of us, religious and non-religious, Muslim, Jewish, and Christian, to be part of promoting a culture of dialogue, human brotherhood, compassion, and justice.

If Muslims follow the Qur'anic teaching that says:
O humankind! We have created you from a single male and a female (Adam and Eve), and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honorable of you with God are the ones who are most mindful of God (in their behavior).

And if Christians abide by Jesus' saying:
Whatsoever you would that others should do to you, do you even so to them.

And if Jews follow the Torah commandment of:
You shall Love your neighbor as yourself.

Then we would all be in good shape. But until then, we will sadly continue to deal with Man's aggression against his fellow Man. (and women too!)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Interfaith group promotes mutual understanding

Orange County residents of different religions meet and discuss faith.

By ADAM TOWNSEND, The Orange County Register, May 7, 2007

YORBA LINDA — The Interfaith Council of North Orange County is a group of the religious of all stripes who hold events to promote understanding and satisfy general curiosity on spiritual matters.

The roughly 20 active members – Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews and Christians, as well as followers of many other religions – meet to discuss what unifies their faiths and hold events for the public.

The group allows the faithful to share their beliefs respectfully, providing a forum that the members say is all too uncommon in this age of polarized politics and widespread ignorance of others' traditions.

"It's never been easy to wear a turban and a beard in the U.S., and after 9/11, it just got worse," said Arinder Chadha, a panelist for one of the group's discussion sessions...

Hussam Ayloush, who is the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Southern California, said such events were important, especially for American Muslims who may sometimes feel "under siege" as the U.S. wages war in predominantly Islamic nations.

"We unfortunately have let the extremists define who we are," Ayloush said. "Many times, instead of explaining what the religion is, we have to spend time explaining what it is not. According to some polls, 60 to 70 percent of people in America know little about Islam. Four out of 10 admit unfavorable views and biases against Muslims."

Photo source: Mark Martinez, The Orange County Register

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Pilgrimage to MANZANAR

I spent my last weekend at Manzanar as part of the annual Pilgrimage to Manzanar program. It was a life-changing experience that helped renew my commitment to the work I do. Evreyone of us has to put their best efforts in promoting dialogue and understanding among all people. So often, we take our civil rights and freedoms for granted. The Japanese Americans took it for granted too and learned the hard way that it is not a guaranteee, not even in America.

Our country acts at its best when the good people do not remain silent when the fear and hate mongers spread their bigotry and paranoia.

Here is a good summary from our trip (as published by the InFocus Newspaper). Read the whole article on their website. It is really powerful. I am also attaching a few photos from the trip.


Pilgrimage to MANZANAR
By Munira Syeda, Contributing Writer

...On Saturday, April 28 around 1,000 Americans and members of the California Muslim community made a pilgrimage to Manzanar National Historic Site, in what was called the 38th Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage, to learn about the experiences of Japanese American detainees. Among the visitors was the Southern California Muslim family of Barbara Serhal, whose Japanese American parents were incarcerated at Manzanar...

In 1942, internees arrived at the camp with very little luggage. Most of their belongings, businesses and homes were destroyed, taken away or sold at a fraction of the original price. They came to a desolate desert area, where they learned to live in cramped corners, form lines, and exhibit new attitudes at gun-point...

The program also included an interfaith ceremony at the camp cemetery, featuring Shinto, Buddhist, Christian and Muslim prayers. CAIR-LA Area Executive Director Hussam Ayloush and Dr. E.M. Abdul Mumin, head of Riverside’s Du Bois Institute, led the Muslim prayer.

More than 135 internees died at the camp from 1942-45. Many were sent back home for burials but as many as 80 were buried at the camp cemetery. When the camp finally closed, family members of deceased internees took their remains to be buried somewhere else. However, according to historic accounts, at least six people, including three babies, were still buried at the cemetery in 1946...

After the pilgrimage, Ayloush said, "Americans in general, and American Muslims in particular, must visit Manzanar and other internment camps to witness first-hand the kind of dehumanization and injustices that can occur when a country and its people are driven by fear and paranoia during war. Sadly, we find ourselves, yet again, wrestling with the very ideals our nation was founded upon."