- Hussam Ayloush
- 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
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
More than 100 local Muslims will take part in a pilgrimage north to the Manzanar World War II internment camp today to raise awareness about threats to civil rights during times of war.
For many, the trip is both a celebration of civil rights strides made in the last 60 years as well as a reminder of the dark pages in history written by prejudice and fear, said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Ayloush is a U.S. citizen who was born in Lebanon and now lives in Corona. He journeyed to Manzanar, at the foot of the Sierras, last year with his children.
"I can honestly say it was one of the most shocking experiences of my life. It really awakened me," Ayloush said.
Staring down at the tiny graves of children who died at the internment camp, Ayloush said he was struck by the need to defend civil liberties during times of peril such as World War II or the current war on terror.
"You could almost hear the sounds of the people who were there," he said. "The freedoms we enjoy today came at a very heavy price by those who came before us."
Ayloush sees key similarities and differences between the experiences of Japanese-Americans during World War II and American Muslims during today's war on terror.
Just like innocent Japanese-Americans were the target of prejudice and suspicion after the Pearl Harbor attacks, Muslims in this country have been subject to widespread suspicions since the Sept. 11 attacks, he said.
Muslims experienced immigration delays, were profiled at airports, and were subject to electronic surveillance, and 83,000 Muslim men were required to report to federal agents, he said.
Ayloush said he has been the victim of harassment at airports as well as electronic spying. Last year, he made headlines when he and the American Civil Liberties Union sued the federal government to find out whether federal agents were monitoring him as a leader in the Muslim community.
"Muslims have to go to the airport two or three hours early," he said. "You're stopped. You're searched. They take your laptop. They copy your business cards."
Ayloush said these experiences along with the pilgrimage to Manzanar drive him to crusade for civil rights protections.
"Civil liberties are best tested during hard times," he said. "It's easy to say we are a nation of civil liberties when things are easy."
Near the town of Bishop, Manzanar remains today as an unassuming monument to tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans who were ripped from their lives during the war.
For Corona resident Zakia Kator, the camp is a reminder that civil rights abuses can happen at home. The Riverside attorney will also make the pilgrimage today with her daughter and about 25 of her siblings, nieces and nephews.
"This kind of backlash that happens during times of war is something that I know is on the minds of a lot of Muslims," she said. Kator's mother and sister wear a hajib, traditional Islamic head scarves. She worries that they could be the victims of anti-Muslim sentiments. But she also sees hope in the progress the nation has seen since the internment camps.
"The point of this trip is to get ourselves and everyone else educated so that people understand that what happened to the Japanese here during World War II can never be allowed to happen again to Muslims or anyone," said Kator.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Religious Leaders Gather in Memphis to Announce the Formation of Worker Justice Committee on 40th Anniversary of MLK’s Death
(Chicago) Last week in Memphis, religious leaders from across the country stood in unity with waste workers—from 1968 and 2008—to demand that Waste Management, Inc. and other waste companies make immediate and substantive improvements in worker safety. The interfaith clerics announced the formation of a major new body, the National Committee for Sanitation Worker Justice (NCSWJ), on the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination in Memphis—where he had gone, in what would be his final campaign, to show his support for that city’s striking sanitation workers.
The interfaith leaders announced the formation of the committee at a press conference Thursday, April 3rd, symbolically held at St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral. The day after King’s 1968 murder, a group of ministers, priests and rabbis held their own memorial service for the slain civil rights leader before marching to City Hall to demand that Memphis’s mayor resolve the 53-day strike. The new committee was established by the Chicago-based organization Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ).
The body’s 11 members (eight of whom were on hand for the event) represent a diverse array of racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds — African American, Latino, and white; Protestant, Catholic, and Muslim. Across these divides, they stand solidly together in their commitment to Dr. King’s vision of economic justice — the vision that brought him to Memphis in April of 1968.
The committee came together in response to the findings of the investigative report In Harm’s Way, issued by the National Commission of Inquiry into the Worker Health and Safety Crisis in the Solid Waste Industry. The report shows that waste workers still face very real threats to their health on a daily basis, threats that have caused an average of more than 80 deaths a year in the industry.
Co-chairing the body are Rev. Nelson Johnson, Director of the Beloved Community Center in Greensboro, North Carolina (and Co-President of Interfaith Worker Justice’s Board of Directors), and Rev. James Lawson, a veteran civil rights activist whom Dr. King, on the eve of his assassination, called “the leading theorist and strategist of nonviolence in the world.”
“Forty years ago Dr. King joined with the sanitation workers of Memphis to insist on human dignity and economic justice,” says Rev. Johnson. “The 40th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination ought to serve as a clarion call to faith leaders and people of good will all over the nation to join together to complete the unfinished work for which Dr. King courageously gave his life.”
“Today’s plantation capitalism is as rapacious and cruel as it was in the sanitation strike 40 years go, which I chaired,” reflects Rev. Lawson. “It is past time for this most religious country, this most religious people, to repudiate the economics of the plantation. Jesus insisted that without justice you miss the meaning of the Torah and the prophets.”
With the formation of the NCSWJ, religious leaders from across the country are serving notice to waste companies like Waste Management, Inc. that they will fight to end the dangerous conditions that imperil workers. The family of deceased WMI mechanic Raul Figueroa from West Palm Beach, Florida joined NCSWJ, three of the 1968 strikers, safety advocates, and representatives from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters at the event to show their support for the goals of the committee.
Figueroa was the victim of a gruesome accident on January 3, 2008 when a hydraulic truck arm malfunctioned, pinning him against the cab and severing his body in half. “We hope that through our joint and continuous efforts with the Teamsters and the NCSWJ we can finally bring about regulations in this industry,” said Alina Miranda, Figueroa’s widow. “We hope that Waste Management finally realizes that their employees are not just numbers, but human beings, and as such they pay attention to their basic needs, needs such as parts, tools or safety equipment that could be the difference between life and death.”
Members of the NCSWJ include:
• Rev. Raphael Allen, Senior Pastor of Greater Turner Chapel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Atlanta
• Hussam Ayloush, Executive Director of the Southern California Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
• Rev. Yvonne Delk, Founding Director of the Center for African American Theological Studies in Chicago
• Father Richard Estrada, Associate Pastor at La Placita/Our Lady Queen of Angels, the oldest church in Los Angeles
• Rev. Darryl Ingram, Executive Director of the Christian Education Department of the AME Church
• Rev. William Jarvis Johnson, Co-Pastor of New Prospect Family Praise and Worship Center in Washington, D.C. and the senior clergy organizer for Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE)
• Rev. Frank Raines III, Director of Labor Relations for the National Baptist Convention and Pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Detroit
• Rev. Paul Sherry, Campaign Coordinator of Let Justice Roll and former President of the United Church of Christ
• Dr. Melissa Snarr, Professor of Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt University
More complete profiles of the committee’s members available at www.iwj.org/materials/documents/NCSWJbios.pdf.
Memphis sanitation workers' strike, 1968
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
An inspiring song and some beautiful imagery to soothe one's anxiety and sadness.
In face of major challenges, the Qur'an quotes Prophet Abraham saying: God is Sufficient as a Protector, and God is Sufficient as a Helper. (4:45)
In the Nasheed, Hamza sings:
We should be like the mountain
It praises God and never complains...
Sunday, April 13, 2008
If most of us succeed in fostering a positive set of relationships with others, we would succeed in creating the necessary societal critical mass that promotes justice, compassion, mercy, good will, and brotherhood. As expected, such a society will reject greed, bias, racism, envy, and selfishness.
The following are a few sayings (Hadith) of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that provide practical steps for each to implement to bring about such a society.
O people! Your God is one and your forefather (Adam) is one. An Arab is not better than a non-Arab and a non-Arab is not better than an Arab, and a red (i.e. white tinged with red) person is not better than a black person and a black person is not better than a red person, except in piety.
God is not merciful to him who is not merciful to people
He who does not thank people, does not thank God
When a man loves his brother he should tell him that he loves him
The strong man is not the one who is strong in wrestling, but the one who controls himself in anger
He is not of us who has no compassion for our little ones and does not honor our old ones
Beware of suspicion, for suspicion is the greatest falsehood. Do not try to find fault with each other, do not spy on one another, do not vie with one another, do not envy one another, do not be angry with one another, do not turn away from one another, and be servants of God, brothers to one another, as you have been enjoined
Visit the sick, feed the hungry and free the captives
He will not enter paradise whose neighbor is not safe from his mischief
How can one not be at peace with others if such advices are followed?
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
Part 2: http://youtube.com/watch?v=v6GqsM0GYds&feature=related
Part 3 (with my comments): http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2008/03/ayloush-on-fox-news-anti-muslim_31.html
Part 4: http://youtube.com/watch?v=Ccl9FWTf60s&feature=related
The "documentary" (in which I was quoted a few times) attempts to create paranoia by listing almost every crime committed by anyone who claims to be Muslim, even if such crimes were not politically nor religiously motivated. Such selective approach, if applied to any other group, can certainly unfairly negatively stereotype the whole group.
The threat of criminal or terrorist acts will always be real, as it has always been. There is no need to sacrifice our common sense or our civil liberties in the false hope that this will help us eliminate such a threat. It should not be an either or choice when it comes to fighting terrorism and protecting civil liberties. A balance can be attained.
Our security is achieved when we isolate the problem and engage all people, in America and abroad, in the process of rejecting and preventing extremism, injustice, and terrorism, whether by individuals, groups, or countries.
The last thing we need is to get advice on how to fight terrorism from individuals, pundits, industries, and politicians who financially and politically benefit from this exaggerating and sometimes even fueling its threat.