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, February 28, 2009

AirTalk Radio Discussion on the FBI's relationship with the Muslim community

FBI Informants And The Muslim Community

AirTalk Show, KPCC (NPR Station), Friday, Feb. 27

A frank discussion on the issue of the FBI's relationship with the Muslim community

Hosted by: Larry Mantle

Randy Parsons, Retired Special Agent in Charge of Counter Terrorism and former Acting Assistant Director of the Los Angeles office of the FBI

Hussam Ayloush, Executive Director of the Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)

[ Listen ]

AirTalk's introduction to the program
The Muslim American community represents a potent ally in the FBI's fight against Al-Qaeda. But if the FBI profiles members of the Islamic community or wrongly accuses them, they risk alienating people who might otherwise help them.

This basic dilemma is a theme in the case of Alhmadullah Sais Niazi, a man arrested by the FBI and charged with perjury and fraud. He says the FBI unfairly singled him out because he refused to act as an informant. Also revealed in the case was Craig Monteilh, a 46-year-old Irvine resident who was sent by the FBI to infiltrate several Orange County mosques as part of a case against Niazi.

What does this mean to the Islamic community of Southern California? And what can the FBI do to track potential criminals, while not inappropriately targeting innocents who happen to be Muslim?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Visited by an FBI Agent? Know Your Rights

Source: CAIR-LA

American Muslims strongly support law enforcement and the protection of our national security. As Americans, we also value the civil rights of every individual. All Americans have the constitutional right of due process and to be politically active.

If you know of any criminal activity taking place in your community, it is both your religious and civic duty to immediately report such activity to local and federal law enforcement agencies.

Considering recent events, and the increase in FBI/Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF, including officers from the Department of Homeland Security and local police or sheriff departments) related incidents reported to our office, it is important that Muslims understand their rights when visited by FBI/JTTF at their home or workplace:

1) Understand that your providing information to the FBI/JTTF, absent a subpoena, is strictly voluntary. You are not obligated under law to answer any of their questions, other than giving your name and sometimes your address.

2) You may choose to have an attorney accompany or represent you for any interview or questioning. It is a good idea to consult with an attorney regarding the risks and benefits of being interviewed by law enforcement in your specific case.

3) If an FBI/JTTF agent shows up at your residence or workplace, and they do not have a search or arrest warrant and absent exigent circumstances, you do not have to let them in.

4) If they do have an arrest or search warrant, you may exercise your right to remain silent. Comply with all directives and do not physically resist an officer. Be polite and respectful at all times.

5) If an agent or officer says they have some questions for you, you have the right to refuse to speak to them and/or you may tell the agents or officers that you will have your attorney contact them if they wish to speak to you.

6) Note that anything you say to an agent or officer can be used against you in a court of law, and lying to an agent or officer is considered perjury and is a criminal offense.

7) Should you decide to speak to agents alone despite the risks, note that you may set the conditions of the interview, including choosing when and where the interview is to take place, having a third party present such as a family member or community leader, and deciding what questions to answer, and refusing to sign any documents. You may cancel the interview at any time.

8) Get the names, agencies, badge numbers, and business cards of ALL agents or officers.

9) Contact your attorney and CAIR to report the interview/incident and to discuss next steps. If you feel that your civil rights were violated, you may also file a complaint with the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.

More Resources:

- “FBI Interviews: Knowing the law can protect you” by Ahilan Arulanantham and Ranjana Natarajan. InFocus News. http://www.infocusnews.net/content/view/1036/200/

- “Got Rights: Protect yourself and your family at home and at the airport” a video by Muslim Advocates. http://www.muslimadvocates.org/get_involved/got_rights.html

- To file a complaint with the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division http://www.justice.gov/crt/split/complaints.php

Please note: This above is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Should you have any questions about the material herein or about a specific case, please consult with your attorney.

An Important Note to Southern California Muslim Community

(ANAHEIM, CA, 2/26/09) - The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) today expressed deep concerns about some tactics used by the FBI in its dealings with the Southern California Muslim community.

In a statement, CAIR-LA said:

"A news story published today about a paid FBI informant, coupled with an FBI agent's court testimony this week of the use of an informant to infiltrate mosques in Southern California, have re-ignited feelings of anger, disillusionment and mistrust among American Muslims toward the FBI.

The American Muslim community has never waivered from its commitment to keeping America safe, nor has it hesitated from cooperating with various law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, in ensuring the security of all U.S. citizens.

However, reports of paying informants to monitor and provoke law-abiding Muslims in houses of worship, as well as the recruitment by the FBI of Muslims to become informants and threats of retaliation for refusing to comply, along with past history of FBI surveillance of Muslim students on Southland college campuses have prompted our community to raise these deeply troubling concerns:

1. These coercive and intimidating methods highlight the fact that the FBI continues to view the entire American Muslim community as suspect and treat it as such. Infiltrating mainstream mosques the way FBI informants infiltrate white supremacist groups illustrates the FBI's perception of American Muslims as a community that must be constantly monitored, instead of being treated as an equal partner in fighting crime and terrorism.

2. Informants are used to manufacture terrorism-like plots, which are then announced as successfully disrupted by the FBI. Such actions waste precious taxpayer dollars and take the agency away from the mission of protecting our nation by tracking and foiling actual terrorism and crime.

3. Law-abiding Muslims at mainstream mosques and Islamic centers are being incited and entrapped by former criminals with questionable characters.

Unfortunately, the FBI's counter-productive actions damage the trust between Muslims and law enforcement and trample our Constitutionally-mandated civil liberties.

We encourage community members, who have been visited, harassed, or threatened by an FBI agent, to promptly report that incident to CAIR offices. As always, please continue to report any suspicious or criminal activity to the FBI or law enforcement - it's an obligation mandated by our faith Islam and our love for our country."

SoCal Muslims Angry at Informants in Mosques

KNBC 4 Television, Los Angeles
Fri, Feb 27, 2009

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- A Muslim advocacy organization said Friday that American Muslims are feeling "anger, disillusionment and mistrust" toward the FBI in the aftermath of reports that it used an informant to infiltrate Southland mosques.

"The American Muslim community has never wavered from its commitment to keeping America safe, nor has it hesitated from cooperating with various law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, in ensuring the security of all U.S. citizens," the Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said in a statement.

But, it said, reports that informants have been paid "to monitor and provoke law-abiding Muslims in houses of worship" and the recruitment by the FBI of Muslims "to become informants" have left American Muslims with "deeply troubling concerns."

One of them is that "these coercive and intimidating methods highlight the fact that the FBI continues to view the entire American Muslim community as suspect and treat it as such," the statement said.

"Infiltrating mainstream mosques the way FBI informants infiltrate white supremacist groups illustrates the FBI's perception of American Muslims as a community that must be constantly monitored, instead of being treated as an equal partner in fighting crime and terrorism," according to the statement.

An Irvine man who claims he worked as an FBI informant to infiltrate mosques and gather information about a man now accused of lying about ties to al-Qaida said this week that he spent four to five hours a day with the suspect, and he now fears his life may be in danger from extremist groups.

Craig Monteilh, 46, says he recorded Ahmadullah Sais Niazi discussing jihad, weapons and plans to blow up abandoned buildings.

Monteilh filed court documents Wednesday saying he served as a confidential informant for the FBI from July 2006 to October 2007 to identify and thwart terrorist operations in the Orange County Islamic community.

The CAIR statement said Monteilh's story coupled with an FBI agent's court testimony this week in Niazi's trial regarding the use of an informant "to infiltrate" Southland mosques "have re-ignited feelings of anger, disillusionment and mistrust among American Muslims toward the FBI."

"...The FBI's counter-productive actions damage the trust between Muslims and law enforcement and trample our constitutionally mandated civil liberties," it said.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ex-con, Provocateur Goes Public about Infiltrating Mosques as Paid FBI Informant

Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times
Craig Monteilh, dressed in his undercover Islamic clothing, says he worked for the FBI as a paid informant from July 2006 to October 2007.

Man says he was informant for FBI in Orange County

He identifies himself in a court filing as having infiltrated mosques in Orange County on behalf of the agency.
By Teresa Watanabe and Scott Glover
The Los Angeles Times, February 26, 2009

As federal authorities press their case against a Tustin man accused of lying about ties to Al-Qaeda, they disclosed this week that some evidence came from an informant who infiltrated Orange County mosques and allegedly recorded the defendant discussing jihad, weapons and plans to blow up abandoned buildings.

On Wednesday, a man who claims to be that informant stepped forward, filing court documents saying that he had served as a confidential informant for the FBI from July 2006 to October 2007 to identify and thwart terrorist operations in the Orange County Islamic community.

The claim by Craig Monteilh, a 46-year-old Irvine resident, that he had been sent by the FBI to infiltrate several Orange County mosques could affect the government's case against Ahmadullah Sais Niazi. His allegations highlight recurring issues about the use of informants by law enforcement agencies and have fanned long-held fears by some Muslim leaders about religious profiling.

Monteilh said in interviews that he had alerted the FBI to Niazi after meeting him at the Islamic Center of Irvine in November 2006 and spending eight months with him. Monteilh said he called himself Farouk Al-Aziz and posed as a Syrian-French American in search of his Islamic roots. Monteilh told the FBI that Niazi befriended him and began to lecture him about jihad, gave him lessons in bomb-making and discussed plots to blow up Orange County landmarks.

"He took me under his wing and began to radicalize me," Monteilh said.

The FBI declined to comment on Monteilh's allegations, which could not be independently verified. Niazi's attorney, deputy federal public defender Chase Scolnick, also declined to comment.

But an FBI agent's testimony in the case Tuesday and interviews with Muslim leaders both appeared to bolster some of Monteilh's assertions about his role in the case.

Special Agent Thomas J. Ropel III testified at a bail hearing for Niazi that the defendant had been secretly recorded by an informant while initiating jihadist rhetoric and threatening to blow up abandoned buildings. Ropel did not name Monteilh but testified that the agency's informant was the same man Muslims had reported to the FBI as an extremist. In June 2007, the Council on American-Islamic Relations reported Monteilh to the FBI as a possible terrorist, said Hussam Ayloush, the council's executive director in Anaheim.

Ayloush said he was "100% sure" that Monteilh was the informant in question and expressed anger and disappointment that the FBI would infiltrate mosques. He accused officials of trying to entrap innocent Muslims, noting that Monteilh has been convicted of grand theft and forgery in the past. He said Muslims had worked hard to develop a partnership with the FBI -- and had been assured by J. Steven Tidwell, then assistant director in charge of the Los Angeles field office, at an Irvine forum in 2006 that their mosques were not being monitored. Now, Ayloush said, he has doubts about future relations with the FBI.

"This is religious profiling at its worst," Ayloush said about the FBI operation.

The Afghanistan-born Niazi, 34, was arrested last week and is scheduled to be arraigned next month on suspicion of perjury, naturalization fraud, misuse of a passport obtained by fraud and making a false statement to a federal agency. Niazi, who has lived in the United States since 1998 and earned citizenship five years ago, is related by marriage to Amin al-Haq, an Afghan militant who fought the Soviet occupation of the 1980s with a U.S.-backed Islamic resistance force that now is branded an Al Qaeda affiliate. Niazi is accused of failing to disclose those ties during his application for citizenship.

Niazi asserted after his arrest last week that he is an innocent man who is being retaliated against by the FBI for refusing to become an informant.

In Tuesday's bail hearing, Ropel asserted that Niazi was a danger to the community who should be held without bail. But prosecutors offered no testimony regarding the specific plots Monteilh says he told the FBI that he discussed with Niazi, allegedly involving attacks on Orange County shopping centers, military installations and court buildings. Nor was there any testimony about other mosque members allegedly having been involved in those or other terrorist activities, as Monteilh maintains was the case.

Ayloush said he had received numerous complaints from Muslims in 2007 that Monteilh was aggressively promoting terrorist plots and trying to recruit others to join him. Citing such behavior and saying that it made members of the mosque feel threatened, the Islamic Center of Irvine won a temporary restraining order in June 2007 that barred Monteilh from the mosque.

Monteilh filed a petition Wednesday to lift the restraining order, saying that he wanted to clear his name from any suspicion of terrorist activity. He had not contested the original order, he said, because he had been instructed by the FBI not to testify at the hearing. But he said he was speaking out now because the FBI had allegedly violated pledges to remove the restraining order, place him in a witness protection program, give him a final payment of $100,000 and grant other benefits in an exit package.

"Although the FBI has not fulfilled their promises, I am proud to have participated in the War on Terror," Monteilh said in the petition.

Monteilh, burly and bald, said he first began working for the FBI in late 2003 as an informant on white supremacist and narcotics cases after making connections with the Aryan Brotherhood during a prison stint for forgery. In 2006, he alleges, he agreed to infiltrate mosques.

During two weeks of training, Monteilh said in an interview with The Times, he was taught about Islam, Arabic, self-defense and weapons. He said he was outfitted with video and audio recording devices and given specific names of people to monitor. Monteilh said he also was instructed to progress slowly in his embrace of Islam to make his conversion seem natural -- wearing Western clothes initially and then eventually growing a beard and donning an Egyptian robe, shawl and head cap.

In August 2006, Monteilh said, he approached his first target: the Islamic Center of Irvine. There, he alleges, he made his declaration of the Islamic faith known as shahada and, as instructed by his FBI handlers, posed as a serious student of Islam.

Several Muslims began to embrace him, he told the FBI, and by December he was approached by Niazi. The pair dined at an Islamic Chinese restaurant in Anaheim and hit it off after Monteilh pledged that he would do everything he could to protect Muslims from harm by infidels. He described Niazi as highly intelligent, devout, resourceful and scholarly, with a temperate mien overlaying the passion of his cause.

In an interview, Monteilh alleged that he told the FBI that Niazi told him that he had been one of 200 people who greeted Osama Bin Laden in 1996 when he took refuge in Afghanistan after being expelled from Sudan. Niazi called Bin Laden an "angel," Monteilh said -- an assertion that FBI Agent Ropel repeated this week as information gleaned from the agency's informant. Ropel testified Tuesday that Niazi told the informant that it was his "duty to engage in violent jihad."

Over a year, Monteilh further related in an interview, the FBI paid him sums ranging from $2,500 a month to as high as $11,200.

Monteilh said he was cut loose as an informant in fall 2007 because members of the mosque he infiltrated began to suspect that he was working with the FBI.

Kenneth Piernick, a former FBI counter-terrorism official who is a consultant in Virginia, said parsing out what's true and what's not, even from someone deemed to be a reliable informant, can be challenging.

"You don't go talk to choirboys to get information on thugs," said Piernick, who retired from the bureau in 2003.

He said informants can be egotistical, manipulative and dishonest. Those who are getting paid, he said, have been known to "exaggerate information, or even invent it" to keep the money flowing.

Piernick said common reasons for discontinuing an informant include low-quality or unreliable information.

"In other words, he's not worth the effort," Piernick said.


Times staff writer Christine Hanley contributed to this report.

CAIR-LA Calls for Probe into FBI's Coercive Tactics against American Muslims

(LOS ANGELES, CA, 2/24/09) - At a news conference on Tuesday, February 24, the Greater Los Angeles Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) called on the U.S.
Attorney General to investigate FBI's reportedly coercive and questionable tactics in the arrest of Tustin resident, Ahmad Niazi. CAIR-Los Angeles representatives were joined by an Islamic Shura Council of Southern California official and wife of Mr. Niazi.

At a hearing today, Mr. Niazi's bail was set at $500,000. He faces charges of perjury, naturalization fraud, misuse of a passport obtained by fraud, and making a false statement to a federal agency. He maintains the charges are in retaliation for his refusal to become an FBI informant.

Mr. Niazi previously reported to CAIR-LA and other community members that, during a raid of a friend's house, an FBI agent urged Mr. Niazi to work with the agency, saying that if he refused to cooperate his life would be made a "living hell."

The letter, sent to Attorney General Eric Holder today, stated in part:

"In April 2008 Mr. Niazi reported to our office that he had been at the home of a potential business partner when it was raided by the FBI. He told us that, during the raid, Special Agent Thomas J. Ropel III urged Mr. Niazi to "work" with the agency, saying that if Mr. Niazi refused to cooperate his life would be made a "living hell." ...

"Many similar incidents have been reported to our office. This apparently retaliatory persecution is a reality that many American Muslims, unfortunately, are forced to face.

"We therefore urgently request a formal investigation into the FBI and Joint Counter-Terrorism Task Force's arrest of Mr. Niazi, and their investigative, surveillance, and intelligence gathering strategies in connection with the American Muslim community. This investigation should examine when and how agents and officers seek to recruit American Muslims as informants and how these individuals are treated if they refuse recruitment."

SEE: Letter to U.S. Attorney General

SEE: Bail Set for Man Arrested by Terrorism Task Force (KNBC)
ALSO SEE: Bail OK'd for alleged in-law of al-Qaeda official (AP)

Credit: Orange County Register
"What we suspected all along is confirmed in a court of law, today," said Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Shura Council, at the news conference. "FBI's use of provocateurs and informants in mosques is unacceptable. While we recognize FBI's outreach efforts, we wish they stop playing the dual role of a buddy and a bully toward law-abiding Muslim Americans."

Jamilah Amin, wife of Mr. Niazi, also addressed reporters at the news conference.

"He is a wonderful husband and a daddy to my kids. He could not be any harm to anybody, to any human being on this earth," she said.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Funny show: Working With A Muslim

More understanding of Islam is needed, Ayloush tells Montana audience

Ayloush explains Islam at Montana State University in Bozeman

February 19, 2009 -- Anne Pettinger, MSU News Service

The executive director of a California-based council on American and Islamic relations told hundreds of people gathered at Montana State University Wednesday night that Muslims are a very diverse group of people and simply cannot be categorized in any one way.

Muslims are "as diverse as America," said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Southern California. "Day to day, American Muslims are no different than any other person in America," he later added.

With 1.3 billion Muslims worldwide, which is about one-fourth of the world's population, it's important for other groups of people, such as Christians, to learn about Muslims, Ayloush said.

"We can't afford to be at odds with one another," Ayloush said.

Ayloush visited MSU along with Aminah Assilmi, director of the International Union of Muslim Women, as lecturers at a free, one-day symposium geared to local understanding of Islam. The symposium, which was sponsored by MSU's Diversity Awareness Office and the Muslim Student Association, included the evening lectures, an afternoon panel discussion and film screenings.

Ayloush, who spoke about "What it means to be a Muslim in America," discussed various pieces of information about the religion. That information ranged from the difference between Islam and Muslims (Islam is the name of the religion, and Muslims are followers of Islam) to demographics of Muslims in the U.S. to results of a Pew Research Study that noted 53 percent of Muslims said it is more difficult to be a Muslim in the U.S. since 9/11, while 40 percent of Muslims said it hasn't changed.

Ayloush also stressed that Islam is about peace.

It's "about establishing peace within yourselves and society," he said. "It means, 'I peacefully submit to God.' That's the goal of Muslims."

Ayloush noted throughout the lecture that his comments were about "mainstream" Islam, which he estimated 80 percent to 85 percent of Muslims followed.

But Islam is often misunderstood, in part because "the misdeeds of a few Muslims have tainted" the religion, Ayloush said.

To counteract misunderstanding, Ayloush discussed basic tenets of Islam. Muslims believe Muhammad is a prophet of God who lived about 600 years after Jesus. Muhammad was a human being, not a divine being, Ayloush said. And Muhammad's teachings, including those of justice, kindness, equality, respect and compassion, are ones that are shared with people of many other faiths, Ayloush said.

Ayloush said the religion's main tenets include a belief in one God, (known as Allah); messengers; scriptures; angels; and a day of judgment. The five pillars - or important actions a Muslim must undertake -- include Shahada (a statement of belief), prayer, fasting, charity, and a pilgrimage to Mecca.

Assilmi, who spoke about the status of women in Islam, said women in Islam are highly respected and have important rights.

"I wouldn't have become Muslim if women were oppressed by Islam," said Assilmi, who converted to Islam from Christianity in 1977. The change in faith resulted in Assilmi losing her job, getting divorced, and losing custody of her children, she said. Assilmi also identified herself as having been part of the American women's liberation movement.

In Islam, women are given the right to control their own wealth, they can choose who they want to marry, and they are protected from any form of abuse in their marriage, Assilmi said. Women also are allowed to divorce their husbands, she said.

And, while many people question whether the head covering many Muslim women wear is a sign of oppression, Assilmi views it as "a badge of honor."

"We wear it so we will be identified as Muslim," she said.

But Assilmi stressed that cultural laws are often different. She said her comments about the teachings of Islam reflect what the Quran says, not what is actually occurring in various countries. In practice, some horrible abuses against women are taking place in various countries around the world, she said.

Just as Ayloush stressed the importance of learning about Islam, Assilmi said it was essential that people across the world develop a greater understanding of other groups' beliefs.

People must learn to not only accept, but respect, others' beliefs, she said.

"We have to learn to respect our right to be different, to do things in a slightly different way," she said. "We need to quit trying to make enemies of each other.

"I'm not up here trying to convert anyone to Islam," Assilmi said. "I'm here because the source of war is fear, and the source of fear is misunderstanding."

Phenocia Bauerle, (406) 994-5801 or diversityawareness@montana.edu

Monday, February 16, 2009

Anthony Asadullah Samad: 100th Anniversary of the NAACP: What's In The Future For The Granddaddy Of Civil Rights Groups?

A perspective from a past NAACP branch president.


100th Anniversary of the NAACP: What's In The Future For The Granddaddy Of Civil Rights Groups?
By: Anthony Asadullah Samad

This week, the most venerable of civil rights organizations, the National Association For The Advancement of Colored People, more commonly known as the NAACP, turns one hundred years old. Founded on the 100th birthday of Abraham Lincoln (February 12th, 1809), the organization had a controversial start from the very beginning. The organization was born out of what started as an effort on the part of 29 black men to address the increased public assaults and lynchings against black men at the turn of the 20th Century. Post Reconstruction era brought a twenty year "Redemption Period" from 1877 to 1896 that sought to reverse the social and political equality gains of African Americans (then Negroes) in Reconstruction, as social behaviors of exclusion and separation became the cultural norms and ultimately cultural law as the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed "Separate But Equal" as legal, ushering in a 70 year period of de jure segregation that came to be known as Jim Crow.

It brought forth an open season on blacks, targeting those most prone to "act white" (act equal and defend their rights) in "New Negro" era (blacks born after slavery was abolished in 1865). Led by Scholar and sociologist, W.E.B. DuBois, the meeting was so controversial that they held it on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. The meeting resolved to partner with well meaning whites to make public and political appeals for the eradication of lynching. It became known as the Niagara Movement.

However, once they returned to America-they found out that while there were influential whites willing to organize around social protection of blacks, they weren't willing to do so without conditions. No radicals. No violence advocates. And the whites, who would fund the collaboration, would do the picking (of who was to be involved). Journalist Ida B. Wells and Publisher William Monroe Trotter would be excluded (Wells was later invited after compliants that the group wasn't "colored enough").

The most influential Negro in the country, Booker T. Washington, would decline involvement and suppress the efforts funding in its formative years. The most recognizable Negro to lend credibility to the effort was DuBois, who was not put in a leadership position but would be the public voice of the organization as editor of its publication, The Crisis Magazine. This was the beginning of what became known as the NAACP. Its first twenty five years (1909 to 1934) was solely dedicated to getting Congress or the President (any President) to pass and sign into law, anti-lynching legislation. Stand alone anti-lynching legislation was never passed in the history of these United States.

In 1934, DuBois and the NAACP parted ways after DuBois publicly advocated, in the NAACP's own magazine, that blacks accommodate segregation. It was at this time, the organization changed strategies to engage in a 20 year battle to end Jim Crow, by hiring Howard Law School Dean, Charles Hamilton Houston, and one of his law students, Thurgood Marshall (five years later), started the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in 1939 and argued dozens of cases over a 15 year period that culminated in five cases (in four states and the District of Columbia) being consolidated in one case that came to be known as Brown v. Board of Education. In winning the Brown decision that outlawed "Separate But Equal," NAACP became the crown jewel of civil rights groups and the focus of the U.S. Government and state government that sought to disband the organization and prosecute (intimidate) its members.

The NAACP was disbanded in Alabama for refusing a federal order to give up its membership lists. This gave rise to the birth of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the rise of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s direct action campaigns against Massive Resistance-what we now call the Civil Rights Movement. The NAACP thought King was crazy to directly confront southern segregationists. However, it was the NAACP giving King legal protection in the courts that gave the movement legs, which King rarely ever gave the NAACP credit for doing, which caused friction in the relationship between King, Thurgood Marshall and NAACP Executive Secretary, Roy Wilkins. The uneasy alliance forged the first meaningful Civil Rights legislation in the 20th Century, the elimination of Jim Crow and the protection of voting rights. However, after the assassination of King, who had emerged as the central figure of the movement, and rise of the pro-black radical movement (known as the "Black Power" movement), the NAACP lost its resonance in the movement.

In the Post Civil Rights Movement (1980s forward), the NAACP, except for its fairshare and ACT-SO programs, lost its standing in the courts (after the Legal Defense left the organization in the late 1970s, sued and won the right to keep its name), lost its membership ranks and lost its leadership focus (after Ben Hooks retired, the NAACP has had five executive directors/President and three board chairs in 15 years). Now when you asked what the NAACP does, nobody can tell you. As a past NAACP branch president, I can say that (though nobody else will-but they think it). In the last 15 years, the NAACP has lost its way and its relevancy. Only them and the National Baptist Convention stayed out of the Million Man March in 1995. They were ignored in eight years of the Bush White House. Few NAACPers backed Obama (most of its leadership, like most Congressional Black Caucus members, backed Hillary Clinton).

In the last year, the NAACP decided to "go young," hiring the youngest President in its history, 35 year old, Benjamin Jealous, a bright futuristic thinker with a global human rights advocacy focus. He recently announced it would also become the NAACP's focus. Hmmmm. That's futuristic thinking sho' nuff for a two headed dinosaur that hasn't found it way out of the 1980s. The NAACP does entertainment better than it does advocacy these days. Not quite the credentials we were looking for at the age of 100. In the age of Obama, talk of post-racialism and a widening equality gap, there is space for the NAACP to play in advocacy arena. The problem is, it's been 50 years since the NAACP was at the right place, in the right time, and therein lays its dilemma-being able to transition with the time. The question really is, what does the future hold for the NAACP, and can it get there in time to make a difference? You shiver at the very thought.

Let's hope so. Aside from that, Happy 100th Anniversary, NAACP.

Happy 100th Anniversary, NAACP

Like all Americans, but especially as an American Muslim who benefits from the rights that came as a result of the long struggle for justice and equality by the African American community, and namely under the leadership of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), I congratulate our nation for having such an organization.

To all the NAACP workers, staff, volunteers, and board members, present and past, happy 100th anniversary. It has been 100 years of hard work, dedication, and success.

Please keep up the good work. America counts on you.

Gitmo guards expose abuse, express shame (and even convert to Islam)

For many years, at the expense of being unfairly labeled an unpatriotic American by right-wing nuts in our country, I have vocally called for the shutting down of what I called the Gitmo Gulag. I refused to have our country remembered and associated with such an immoral legacy. My moral values required that I publicize the injustice committed against those who were never charged with any crimes, such as Guantanamo Bay Prisoner 345 or when our democracy deems it necessary to torture a 16-year-old kid.

I firmly believe that the patriotic and moral thing to do is to continue to speak for the rule of law, for the human rights of every human being, and for an America that respects its moral values.


Former Gitmo guard recalls abuse, climate of fear

By MIKE MELIA, Associated Press, Sat Feb 14

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Army Pvt. Brandon Neely was scared when he took Guantanamo's first shackled detainees off a bus. Told to expect vicious terrorists, he grabbed a trembling, elderly detainee and ground his face into the cement — the first of a range of humiliations he says he participated in and witnessed as the prison was opening for business.

Neely has now come forward in this final year of the detention center's existence, saying he wants to publicly air his feelings of guilt and shame about how some soldiers behaved as the military scrambled to handle the first alleged al-Qaida and Taliban members arriving at the isolated U.S. Navy base.

His account, one of the first by a former guard describing abuses at Guantanamo, describes a chaotic time when soldiers lacked clear rules for dealing with detainees who were denied many basic comforts. He says the circumstances changed quickly once monitors from the International Committee of the Red Cross arrived...

Neely, a burly Texan who served for a year in Iraq after his six months at Guantanamo, received an honorable discharge last year, with the rank of specialist, and now works as a law enforcement officer in the Houston area. He is also president of the local chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

An urge to tell his story led him to the University of California at Davis' Guantanamo Testimonials Project, an effort to document accounts of prisoner abuse. It includes public statements from three other former guards, but Neely was the first to grant researchers an interview. He also spoke extensively with the AP...

Terry C. Holdbrooks Jr. told the Web site cageprisoners.com in an interview this month that he saw several abuses during his service at Guantanamo in 2003, including detainees subjected to cold temperatures and loud
music, and he later converted to Islam.

Neely, 28, describes a litany of cruel treatment by his fellow soldiers, including beatings and humiliations he said were intended only to deliver physical or psychological pain...

Neely's account sheds new light on the early days of Guantanamo, where guards were hastily deployed in January 2002 and were soon confronted by men stumbling out of planes, shackled and wearing blackout goggles.

They were held in chain-link cages and moved to more permanent structures three months later.

The soldiers, many of them still in their teens, had no detailed standard operating procedures and were taught hardly anything about the Geneva Conventions, which provide guidelines for humane treatment of prisoners of war, Neely said, though some learned about them on their own initiative...

Only months had passed since the Sept. 11 attacks, and Neely said many of the guards wanted revenge. Especially before the first Red Cross visit, he said guards were seizing on any apparent infractions to "get some" by hurting the detainees. The soldiers' behavior seemed justified at the time, he said, because they were told "these are the worst terrorists in the world."

He said one medic punched a handcuffed prisoner in the face for refusing to swallow a liquid nutritional supplement, and another bragged about cruelly stretching a prisoner's torn muscles during what was supposed to be physical therapy treatments.

He said detainees were forced to submit to take showers and defecate into buckets in full view of female soldiers, against Islamic customs.

When a detainee yelled an expletive at a female guard, he said a crew of soldiers beat the man up and held him down so that the woman could repeatedly strike him in the face.

Neely says he feels personally ashamed for how he treated that elderly detainee the first day. As he recalls it, the man made a movement to resist on his way to his cage, and he responded by shoving the shackled man headfirst to the ground, bruising and scraping his face.
Other soldiers hog-tied him and left him in the sun for hours.

Only later did Neely learn — from another detainee — that the man had jerked away thinking he was about to be executed.

"I just felt horrible," Neely recalled...

Neely acknowledged that by talking about his experiences, he also has broken the nondisclosure pledge he signed before leaving Guantanamo.
He also says a lawyer told him the document he signed could not be enforced...

Neely said discussing his experience now has helped put it behind him.
"Speaking out is a good way to deal with this," he said.

Important links:

Testimony of Spc. Brandon Neely

The Guantanamo Testimonials Project

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Catholics, Muslims begin to value how much they share across faiths

Catholics, Muslims begin to value how much they share across faiths
By Dennis Sadowski
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In the days following the Sept. 11 attacks, Dalila Benameur and her Muslim friends in Bridgeview, Ill., were afraid to leave their homes even when their pantries ran low and their refrigerators emptied. The women felt threatened by the handful of intimidating drivers who would cruise past the town's mosque waving Confederate flags and shouting anti-Muslim epithets.

That's when Andreatte Brachman and her friends from St. Fabian Catholic Church stepped in.

Brachman and company offered to accompany the women on errands as a sign of solidarity to alleviate growing concerns that Muslims hated America...

Of course, it helped that the St. Fabian women had gotten to know their Muslim neighbors before the attacks as part of the Muslim-Catholic Women's Group that had evolved from the two faith communities several years earlier...

In their discussions the women have explored what jihad truly means to Muslims -- an internal struggle to serve God -- and how each religion views Jesus. For Catholics, Jesus is the Son of God and the savior of the world; for Muslims he is a wise prophet who helps reveal God. At the group's Jan. 9 meeting, the women shared their common concern for the poor, rooted in the tenets of their two faiths, when they volunteered at a local shelter for homeless people...

Three official Catholic-Muslim dialogues have been occurring since the 1990s: on the West Coast, in the Midwest and in the mid-Atlantic. These annual meetings have been sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Muslim leaders, particularly the Indiana-based Islamic Society of North America and the Islamic Circle of North America in New York...

Father Francis Tiso, associate director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, said emphasizing the common beliefs and shared values in the dialogues is fruitful, but just as much can be learned by participants acknowledging and discussing differences.

"When dialogue is about differences there is a certain high relief that emerges that enables both sides to appreciate one another precisely for the differences," said Father Tiso. "There's an appreciation process ... when you really listen to the other side, what they're really saying or trying to communicate...


America, Yes We Can Bring Justice and Peace to Palestine

This billboard message was placed in several locations throughout Michigan by the Congress of Arab American Organizations in Michigan

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

An arrogant Bush-style soldier winning the hearts and minds of Iraqis!

My apologies for the foul language.
No wonder we are so popular in the world!

President Obama Quotes the Prophet, promotes tolerance at Prayer Breakfast

On February 5, 2009 President Barack Obama quoted Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, Jesus and the Torah during his remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast.

It is refreshing to have a President who uses religion to promote unity and tolerance rather than misuse religion to sow division and animosity.

So far, I am liking this "change".