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, 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.