About Me

My photo
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 31, 2008

20 Civil Liberties Laws Every American Should Know

By Heather Johnson

With over half of Americans not knowing what “due process” is, not to mention how it relates to civil liberties, it is apparent that despite Americans’ love for our civil liberties, more than a few of us need to brush up on the basic laws which provide the foundation of our civil liberties.

While there are literally hundreds of laws, not to mention constitutional protections under the Bill of Rights which comprise our civil liberties, we have chosen 20 laws which every American should know because of their current political importance and relevance. Understanding the basics of these 20 laws is an important first step for every American to know the extent and limitations of the civil liberties he or she is afforded.

Read about those 20 laws at:

Friday, May 30, 2008

Corona Muslim among activists seeking probe of reported surveillance, theft of records from Camp Pendleton

By: Paige Austin, Press-Enterprise, 5/29/08

A civil-rights group and a coalition of Muslim activists headed by a Corona man called on Congress this week to investigate a report that surveillance records of Southland Muslims were stolen from Camp Pendleton by military and law enforcement officials.

The request stems from a news report that military officials and law enforcement members of the Los Angeles County Terrorist Early Warning Group illegally took the top-secret documents from the base's Strategic Technical Operations Center.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Gary Maziarz has been court-martialed and convicted for his role in the thefts.

While the details of the surveillance and the alleged theft remain largely unknown, the incident provides confirmation that the military and law enforcement groups have been gathering information about local Muslim communities, said Michael German, policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington Legislative Office.

Groups such as the ACLU have long been fighting for more restrictions on government surveillance of U.S. citizens. The Camp Pendleton theft provides them support in their calls for increased oversight of secret surveillance programs, he said.

"One of the fundamental touchstones of our democracy is that the American military isn't to be used against the American people," German said. "What is the military doing with records of domestic surveillance activity?"

Camp Pendleton officials did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

Hussam Ayloush, a Corona resident and executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations of the Greater Los Angeles Area, signed the letter along with members of five organizations asking the Senate and House judiciary committees to investigate along with the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

"It's not only a matter of protecting our civil rights -- it also hurts public safety by eroding the Muslim community's trust in law enforcement," Ayloush said.

As a Muslim and civil-rights activist, Ayloush believes he has been the target of government surveillance and is part of a lawsuit aimed at forcing the government to release records pertaining to the surveillance of American-Muslims.

"We want to know to what extent surveillance is being conducted on law-abiding citizens, and who authorized it," he said. "We want to make sure that the Legislature is providing the checks and balances required by our Constitution. The ultimate goal is to ensure -- even during times of war, fear and paranoia -- that our Constitution is always being upheld."

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Nakba (Catastrophe) lives on, after 60 years

This week, Israel and its supporters celebrated the 60-year anniversary of the establishment of the Apartheid state of Israel on historic Palestine.

Few remembered the heavy price paid by the Palestinians, the indigenous people of that land.

Few mentioned the over 500 Palestinian villages and towns destroyed by Israel in 1948.

None talked about the 750,000 Palestinians who were forcefully ethinically cleansed by Israel in 1948 from their land and homes and never allowed to return.

When will we celebrate the return of today's over 7 million Palestinian refugees to their homes and towns? Isn't it time for their suffering to end too?

60 years of dispossesion are enough. Time to end this ongoing Nakba.

Friday, May 09, 2008

A Poem: Journey to No Man’s Land

(April 2008 - Reflections on a bus tour to Manzanar, the internment camp of the US Government interning its own citizens during WWII)

By Shakeel Syed

Winding roads
Climbing elevation
Air-conditioned bus
Videos playing
Munching on snacks
Laughs and giggles
Stories and gossips

Everything Stops, ‘every-thing” – at least for me
Still Moments – Silence Amidst Clamor

Yes, we reached the grounds …
Holy Grounds … where

Their humanity was stripped
Their dignity was raped, and
Their honor was robbed … AND

Here we were, with our concerns,
Heat, dust, make shift bathrooms … AND

I wished we would remember to remember the –
Mothers, who experienced their motherhood trampled on
Fathers, who saw their children confined to 10x10 cells – AND
Children, who watched their parents tilling the land, devoid of life

Long seventy years of agony for them – “rewinded”
Short four hours of journey for us – “fast forwarded”
The video of life keeps playing …
Too slow for them, and
Much too fast for us

Barely a moment to pause, reflect … and try,
Just a bit harder … and
Feel their pain,
Suffer their anguish, and
Embrace their sorrow …

Are we?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Manzanar Pilgrimage Turns 39

By Alex Isao Herbach
Rafu Staff Writer
Saturday, May 3, 2008
The Rafu Shimpo is the nation's leading bilingual Japanese American daily newspaper.

Hundreds of participants make this year’s pilgrimage one of the most attended in its history.

The 39th Annual Manzanar Pilgrim­age was one of the most successful trips in its history, according to organizers, as upwards of 300 participants made the journey to the former Japanese Ameri­can internment campsite Saturday.

It was a day best defined by its diversity, as pilgrims of varying ages, ethnicities and backgrounds visited the Manzanar National Historic Site, many of whom were participating for the first time. Former internees were joined by their children and grandchildren, curi­ous high school students arrived in their friends’ cars and buses teemed with various secular, academic and religious groups, making this year’s pilgrimage one of its most diverse.

“I think we’re all here for a good reason,” said Hussam Ayloush, execu­tive director of the Southern California branch of the Council on American Islamic Relations, speaking on behalf of the gathered crowd, which included over 100 Muslim Americans. “To pay tribute to the courage and the sacrifices of the Japanese American community. In the Forties, they had to pay a price to ensure that the Civil Liberties of all Americans were protected. We owe them so much, we owe them a great debt and we’re all here to pay that tribute to them.”

The Muslim-American contingent, which has been growing steadily within the last few years, was the largest in the pilgrimage’s history. Their community has joined the pilgrimage in solidarity after the Japanese American community reached out to them following the Sept. 11 attacks...

Read more:

Slideshow from the 39th Annual Pilgrimage to Manzanar

Manzanar pilgrimage was ‘amazing experience’

Manzanar pilgrimage was ‘amazing experience’

Source: InFocus Newspaper

April 26, 6:30 a.m.

"Beep beep beep beep beep…"

I struggled to turn off my alarm clock as I was still in a deep sleep. I almost forgot that I had to get up this early on a Saturday morning for a reason. Then the anticipation suddenly kicked in. I was going to Manzanar.

I rushed to get ready and arrived within an hour at the Anaheim office of the Greater Los Angeles-area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the organization that initiated the Muslim community’s visit to Manzanar. CAIR arranged the bus ride for 58 people to make the trek. Leading up to the event, five community forums were held at different mosques in southern California to educate and inspire the Muslim community to go on this overnight pilgrimage.

I did not know whether to feel anticipation of excitement or sadness. I was going to a previous "War Relocation Center" as the 1940s U.S. government referred to the Japanese-American internment camp.

Initially surrounded by buildings, street lights, and cars on both sides of the bus, we left civilization for expansive sandy brown, brick-colored mountains, desert sand, and widely disbursed Joshua trees in the Mojave desert of California. It turned from beauty to isolation.

12:30 p.m.

We drove deep within Manzanar for at least another mile to get to the site where the monument actually stands. Only one of eight remaining watchtowers was to our far right. This is where guards would stand, with guns pointing in.

In February 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, setting into motion a mass displacement and detainment of American men, women and children of Japanese ancestry – less than two months after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Overall, about 120,000 Japanese-Americans had been held in internment camps, some 11,000 of them at Manzanar. Not a single person was ever charged with espionage.

Imagine being taken away from the comfort of your own home, torn from your family and neighborhood, leaving behind almost all of your belongings, and kept like criminals in the middle of nowhere, without having committed any crime and without prior knowledge of the destination. The internment of this ethnic group is one of the darkest moments in American history. It raised a national debate as well as frustration over suspension of civil liberties during war time.

We joined a diverse crowd of about 1,300 people under the hot scorching sun. There was no canopy set up to shield us from the sweltering heat. If there was, would we have felt the effect of how it must have been for those who were brought in and detained here for three years?

After the short introductions, everyone migrated to the white monument in front of the Sierra Nevada mountains, on the grounds of a former cemetery. Part of the ceremony was an interfaith service bringing together leaders of different religions. On behalf of the Muslim Community, Imam Ali Siddiqui, President of the California Muslim Institute in Corona Valley, was there to give a prayer.

An experienced interfaith community leader, this was Siddiqui’s first trip to Manzanar.

"It was an eye-opening experience," said Siddiqui. "I made a commitment to use this experience and relate it to my khutbas (sermons) for the Muslim community to learn from."

One of the most touching portions of the service was a Christian litany that all participants joined in reading aloud. One of the lines was "O God, stand by our Muslim brothers and sisters in their time of suffering." It was such a welcoming and supportive moment for the Muslims to appreciate and learn from. After the ceremony was over, each person was given a carnation or rose to place on the monument to remember those of the past.

Altaf Wahid, 16, believed it was his most memorable moment.

"It helped symbolize the important actions that took place," said the Buena Park resident.

Afterward, we visited the museum which displayed pictures, documentaries, and furniture from the internment camp during World War II. Pictures and a display of how the camp was actually set up were there for everyone to view.

"I thought the museum was amazing," said 14-year-old Dalia Albassam of Rancho Cucamonga. "They had two-to-three-minute movies playing that I watched."

The museum depicted the living conditions of internees. There was no separation of stalls. Bathroom toilets were right next to each other. Barbed wire fences surrounded the people who lived at the camp. It was an extremely dehumanizing condition they were put in, and how they were able to bounce back as a community provides a lesson for everyone.

The program included an evening group discussion and question and answer session with previous internees, who were informative and inspirational. They were able to succeed in life after coming out of the camps by "patiently waiting," they said.

"As we grow and educate ourselves, we have to let that anger go, "said Marjorie Matsushita, a past internee in Wyoming.

She emphasized that the new generation, no matter what ethnicity, must step up and not be silent. She said we should learn from history and not live in fear.

April 27, 2 p.m.

This experience shows that the Muslim community must form bridges with other communities and learn about the injustices suffered by not only Japanese-Americans, but other minorities as well. It is vital to the functionality in this nation.

As Hussam Ayloush, CAIR-Greater Los Angeles-area executive director, said on the ride back to Orange County, "This pilgrimage was a message of hope."

Upon returning, I can say the pilgrimage was an amazing experience. The Japanese-American community was supportive from the moment we stepped off the bus until the time of our departure and thanked us for coming. Our bus turned into the historic site.