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

Monday, March 30, 2009

Muslims join march honoring Cesar Chavez

Hundreds march to honor Cesar Chavez

Saturday, Mar. 28, 2009

More than 700 people took to the streets of downtown Sacramento today for a march honoring the late farm labor leader Cesar Chavez and to support issues ranging from workers' rights to an end to the war in Iraq.

The 2.6-mile march wound from Southside Park at Sixth and T streets past the Capitol and the federal building before ending at Cesar Chavez Park, directly across I Street from City Hall.

Barefoot dancers in Aztec garb pounded on drums, young mothers pushed strollers and older marchers used walking sticks or canes as they made their way through the streets during the one hour and 40-minute parade that organizers said was themed "Freedom, Justice and Equality for All."

"Mostly ,it's just to remember and honor Cesar Chavez and all the work he did," said Victor Morales, a 50-year-old Sacramento man who came out to join the march.

Morales, who works in a call center, said he believed it was important especially to remind younger people about Chavez, co-founder of the United Farm Workers, and the workers' rights for which he fought.

"They might not know who Cesar Chavez was, or Martin Luther King Jr.," he said.

The event was the ninth annual march sponsored by the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement and included groups ranging from the Sacramento City Teachers Association to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Tracked by Spies and Informers

By Julia A. Shearson

The February 26, 2009 revelation in the Los Angeles Times that FBI domestic intelligence informant and ex-convict Craig Monteilh and others were paid handsomely to spy on Muslim Americans in their houses of worship in Southern California should come as no surprise. Such domestic intelligence gathering has a history in the United States.

The annals of modern domestic surveillance in America are contained in the massive 1976 Church Committee Reports of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The reports, drafted by the Senate in the wake of the Watergate scandal, should have ended domestic intelligence abuses, but in the post-9/11 climate, their warnings and descriptions of crimes against liberty go unheeded.

The chapter entitled “The Use of Informants in FBI Domestic Intelligence Investigations” begins: “Men may be without restraints upon their liberty; they may pass to and fro at pleasure: but if their steps are tracked by spies and informers, their words noted down for crimination, their associates watched as conspirators—who shall say that they are free?”

This quote was borrowed from Sir Thomas May, the nineteenth-century author of The Constitutional History of England. May railed against the use of such spying practices by “continental despotisms” and claimed that “the freedom of a country may be measured by its immunity from this baleful agency.”

The Church reports, available on the Internet, are worth reading today in light of the FBI’s consolidation of domestic intelligence powers in the waning days of the Bush administration. Indeed, the December 1, 2008, issuance of the new investigative guidelines by Attorney General Mukasey was a major step in reconstituting the FBI as the United States’ premier domestic intelligence agency with the Department of Homeland Security and the Joint Terrorism Task Forces as their force multipliers on the ground.

We may be safer now because of this, but at what price for liberty? The new post-9/11 domestic intelligence regime, coupled with immense power, information technology, lack of congressional curiosity and lax Department of Justice oversight, has put our Bill of Rights in peril.

In short, the FBI has been sent headlong into what former vice president Cheney calls the “tough, mean, dirty, nasty business” of keeping the country safe from terrorists. But the problem is the FBI cannot serve two masters: it cannot both serve the Constitution and get into the domestic intelligence trenches. History proves this.

Take just one investigative tool at the FBI’s disposal, the domestic intelligence informant. The Church reports note that “the paid and directed informant is the most extensively used technique in domestic intelligence investigations” and that once the criteria for opening an intelligence case were met, informants could be “used without any restrictions.” In fact, in the 1960s and 1970s, the funding allocated for the intelligence informant program was twice that allocated for organized crime informants. At the height of the Civil Rights Era spying regimen, there were more than 7,400 informants in the Ghetto Informant Program alone. Even agents in the FBI were wary of that controversial program.

There was “no requirement that the decisions of the FBI to use informants be reviewed by anyone outside the Bureau.” This meant that the use of intelligence informants was not “subject to the standards which govern use of other intrusive techniques such as wiretapping and other forms of electronic surveillance.” Moreover the Church reports make clear that there was, and still is, a lack of judicial treatment of the constitutional issues surrounding intelligence informants because as the reports note, “Members of a group will seldom learn that an FBI intelligence informant has been in their midst or has copied their records for the FBI because intelligence investigations almost invariably do not result in prosecutions.”

The newly minted investigative guidelines rushed into place by then attorney general Mukasey on December 1, 2008, cement the FBI’s role as a de facto domestic intelligence agency. Mukasey claimed that the Department of Justice was merely streamlining the investigative playbook so that rules for criminal and national security investigations were more uniform. Yet, according to the Center for Democracy and Technology, the new guidelines “authorize the use of intrusive investigative techniques to collect information in the absence of particularized evidence of a crime or risk to national security.” This is a radical shift in FBI policy.

In fact, under the guise of streamlining its investigative powers, the FBI widened its use of “threat assessments” and “preliminary investigations” and increased the intrusiveness of the techniques available for such practices while it simultaneously eliminated the requirements of reporting such initial investigations to FBI headquarters. Moreover, the new guidelines increase from 10 to 30 days the time period during which a “full investigation” with the most intrusive of techniques can go forward without being reported by the field offices to the headquarters.

So, are other intelligence assets such as Craig Monteilh out there now spying on law-abiding Americans? Probably. Under the 1960s and 1970s domestic intelligence programs for spying on “subversives” and “extremists,” many people got swept up into the intelligence “vacuum cleaner”: college professors, union activists, ministers, women’s rights advocates, students, and so on. Does the Constitution permit the government to spy on American dissenters while it scouts for those who are planning actual violence?

How do we protect the country and its citizens without suppressing the right to dissent, the right to speak freely, and the rights to associate and to assemble? Do Americans really want the FBI back in the domestic intelligence business? Is the FBI’s new domestic intelligence apparatus a necessary post-9/11 evil? It is difficult to know, because it is unclear how the FBI’s new powers are being used. What is clear is that the powers are being used against the average Joe Muslim who keeps getting caught up in the “war on terror.”

Those with knee-jerk suspicion of everything Muslim seem to forget that the rights being compromised in the war on terror are their selfsame rights. Don’t the average Joe and the average Joe Muslim deserve to be free from being tracked by spies and informers?

Most Americans likely want to be free of prowling informants and provocateurs such as Monteilh. In fact, the average American, born with liberty in his gut, has never much liked a government that snoops. Although we want our government to investigate crime and to prevent terrorism, we expect those investigations to stay within constitutional limits.

As Patrick Henry said, “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government—lest it come to dominate our lives and interests” and as George Washington said, “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” It is not certain whether Washington or Henry would approve of the FBI’s renewed domestic intelligence powers, but it is certain they would want the Congress and the new attorney general to monitor the FBI through strict oversight.

If a well-informed consenting citizenry deems domestic intelligence gathering to be a necessary evil, it should be a closely watched evil, lest the well-intentioned but immensely powerful FBI begin repeating its shameful use of intelligence informants as “vacuum cleaners” of information with no limits on what they would report about a subject and his associates.

Julia A. Shearson is executive director of the Cleveland Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Gender equity rooted in teachings of Islam

San Antonio Express-News
By: Sarwat Husain
3/28/2009

Throughout history, women all over the world had to struggle for equality in a male-dominated world. During International Women's Month, it's worth considering how Islam's teachings were an early harbinger of gender equity ­ contrary to a common misperception.

Prior to Islam, a female child was often regarded as a threat to the economic welfare of the family and some were even buried alive as soon as they were born. As an adult, she was a sex object that could be bought and sold. From this inferior position, Islam raised women to a position of influence and prestige in the family and in society.

Many of the rights conferred on women by the Prophet Muhammad more than 1,400 years ago have only partially and grudgingly been given to women in other cultures in recent centuries.

With respect to gender equity, the essential human dignity and fundamental equality of women in Islam is at one with the feminist movement of the West, despite images of Muslim women in the media and some agenda-driven circles as ignorant, oppressed and submissive. The perception that Islam subjugates women is far from the facts.

Most Muslim women have a firm conviction in the Islamic concept of family cohesiveness and happiness. Their own individuality ensures their sense of self-fulfillment.

Islam has defined the rights and duties for women as well as men based on sexual, biological and social realities, not from romantic idealism. The Quran, Islam's revealed text, says in 49:13 ­ “O mankind! We made you from a single (pair) of male and female.”

Women are viewed as equal partners with men in life as well as in religion. Islam does not teach that women are inferior. “O Mankind! Reverence your Guardian-Lord, Who created you from a single person, created of like nature his mate, from them scattered countless men and women, Fear God, through whom you demand your mutual rights and reverence the wombs (that bore you), for God ever watches over you.” (Quran, 4:1)

If any abuse occurs in Muslim homes it is due to the same destructive motivations that cause men to abuse their wives in the rest of the world. Clearly such husbands are not following the teachings of their faith.

The Quran considers women as vital to any society's life as men. It refutes the idea that Eve tempted Adam to disobey God and negates the idea that women are a source of evil.

Women have as much right to education as men. The Prophet Muhammad declared the pursuit of knowledge is incumbent on every Muslim, male and female.

Marriage in Islam is based on peace, love and compassion. A husband is responsible for the maintenance, protection and overall leadership of the family in consultation with his wife. No woman can be forced to marry somebody she does not like.

Muslim women have been elected leaders of their countries and serve in all levels of public offices. They are granted equal rights to establish contracts, to engage in business and to earn money and possess property independently.

Islam gave women their own identity. A Muslim woman is a responsible being in her own right and carries the burden of her moral and spiritual obligations. “Never will I waste a worker among you, whether male or female, the one of you being from the other.” (Quran 3:195)

Sarwat Husain is president of the Council on American Islamic Relations-San Antonio, and is a CAIR national board member. She can be reached at shusain@cair.com.

East Grand A Muslim convert challenges popular image of his faith

Posted by Charles Honey | The Grand Rapids Press March 28, 2009

Muhammad Rasoul, right, relaxes with friend Yusef Ali.

EAST GRAND RAPIDS -- Muhammad Rasoul, chief operating officer of Global Forex Trading, has been in back-to-back meetings since 5:30 a.m., starting with a conference call to Japan and London. He hopes to be home in time to put his two younger kids to bed.

But in this typical wire-to-wire day, Rasoul also will make time for something sacred: the five prayers Muslims are expected to make each day.

"Anytime, I can close that door and do whatever I have to do," Rasoul says of his airy office at 4760 E. Fulton St. in Ada Township. "I really benefit from having that five minutes of peace and quiet to myself. It's almost like a meditation."

Prayer is an obligation Rasoul takes seriously, as he does all other aspects of his adopted Islamic faith. Whether it's flying to Singapore on business or teaching his children about God, Islam is his guidebook for doing the right thing.

If you think you know who Muslims are, meet Rasoul and think again.

With his Christian, Allendale upbringing, reddish-blond hair and Amish-style beard, he doesn't fit the popular image of a typical Muslim. But Rasoul strives to follow God's word and the Prophet Muhammad's example in all things -- including his high-powered job as an international currency trader.

A colorful prayer rug hangs near his office door and prayer beads dangle next to a white board. On it, over a diagram of the company's international offices, is written in Arabic, "In the name of God, the most merciful, the most beneficent."

"I put it up here just as a reminder," says Rasoul, 36, intensely talkative and friendly in a guy-next-door way. "It wouldn't be possible for me to work the way I work if I didn't have a firm understanding of why I'm doing it."

Taking a cue from the popular WWJD bracelets, he will ask himself in every major decision, "What would Muhammad do?"

Muhammad Rasoul prays in his office at Global Forex, a fast-growing online currency trading firm.

"Those values I have for the right way of doing things -- I can't separate that from my job or my home," he says.

That conviction has served him well at Global Forex, a fast-growing online currency trading firm that operates under the brand GFT.

Since he joined as the firm's third employee in 1996, it has grown to 350 employees worldwide, with more than 150 working under him. GFT has three U.S. offices and five others from the United Kingdom to Dubai, with customers in more than 120 countries.

His job as executive vice president and COO is turbo-charged, piling up 500 to 800 e-mails a day and flying more than 120,000 miles a year. He has risen through the ranks quickly since joining GFT founder and president Gary Tilkin as a college intern.

Rasoul's confidence, quick thinking and fair treatment of employees fueled his rise, says Kurt Hoeksema, vice president of trading and risk management.

"He's very, very driven," says Hoeksema, 32, of Byron Center.

Hoeksema was surprised when he met Rasoul 10 years ago and found his boss named Muhammad was a white guy from Allendale.

Shared foundation

They have become friends since then, finding common ground in faith and family despite differing beliefs.

"Faith is the most important thing in my life," says Hoeksema, who attends Mars Hill Bible Church. "I believe the same is true for him."

Rasoul says Islam has helped him do his job well and ethically. He looks to the record of Muhammad's behavior for a role model.

"When my job gets stressful, I try to follow that example of being calm, watching my tone, making sure I'm listening to all the perspectives."

He extends those values to his family and their 1908 home on a broad, tree-lined street in East Grand Rapids. Children Nadia, 8, and Yaseen, 6, go to Wealthy Elementary. Nadia takes dance, and Yaseen plays soccer. His wife, Michele, minds them both while Michael, 18, her son from a previous marriage, takes martial arts and cooks delicious dishes.

A traditional lifestyle

It's a largely typical American family though they don't celebrate Easter. And while the kids enjoy Christmas gatherings with their grandparents, Muhammad and Michele teach them Islamic values and the meaning of the holy month of Ramadan.

Michele's hopes for the children are the same as those of most mothers.

"I want my kids to grow up to be happy and to be accepted for who they are," says Michele, 39 explaining she feels at home with Islam, a faith she adopted three years after marrying Muhammad in 1996.

"I had these ideas about what a Muslim woman was," says Michele, who grew up attending Baptist Sunday School in Comstock Park. "I thought women wore hijabs (head coverings) because guys didn't want their wives to be seen."

In reality, she has found women are "honored" by Islam and that she is not obligated to wear the hijab. She rarely does because she doesn't like drawing stares, or cashiers shouting "DO YOU WANT PLASTIC OR PAPER?" as if she didn't understand English.

But she appreciates the direct relationship to God she feels Islam affords, that she doesn't "have to go talk to some man and have him tell me all the things I had to do to get right with God."

Soulful discoveries

Muhammad also had misconceptions about Islam before he learned its basics from a deli clerk. That was in 1993, when he was still named Russell V. Brown III and worked the night shift at Kinko's.

Raised in the conservative Anglican Catholic Church, he moved from Grand Rapids to Allendale around age 6. As a teen, he loved hip-hop music and dreamed of being a rapper. But he says he got with the wrong crowd, made bad decisions and ended up on probation for carrying a concealed weapon.

Muhammad Rasoul, a devout Muslim, laughs at home with his wife, Michele.

Then he went to the deli near Kinko's one night and saw Yusef Ali wearing a turban. Rasoul asked about it, and Ali told him about Islam.

"As soon as I saw him, I was like, 'There's something different about this guy,'" recalls Ali, 37. "He was charismatic, and he was interested in learning. Before we knew it, we were off and running."

Rasoul was ready. He had been wrestling with doubts about the God he had been taught and studying other religious traditions. Ali began feeding him books on Islam. Rasoul devoured them.

Through reading and meeting Muslims, Rasoul found Islam clicked. He saw it as an extension of Christian teaching though it portrayed Jesus as a prophet, not God's son.

"Really, it didn't go contrary to the way I was brought up," he asserts. "In fact, it confirmed what I felt was right about how I was brought up and clarified things I had issues with."

He made his declaration of faith, or shahada, at a gas station where Ali worked. Soon after, he moved into a house with Ali and others that functioned as a prayer and teaching center. Eventually, they established Baitul Shukur, a mosque on Jefferson Avenue SE where Rasoul is treasurer.

He took the name Muhammad Al-amin Rasoul, Arabic for "Muhammad the trustworthy messenger." The name is apt, he says, because, as a Caucasian, he delivers a message by dispelling people's preconceptions about Islam.

"There are plenty of times in a business meeting (when) one guy says, 'I have never met someone named Muhammad who looks like you.' It gives me an opportunity to explain and expand their understanding of what Islam is."

New goals

Rasoul says Islam changed his life for the better, and fast.

"Before, it was all about me, about what I wanted. (Now), my motivation is totally different -- doing right by God, right by my family and right by me. When things are in that order, it's hard to screw up."

Still, he's keenly aware of his shortcomings but is confident God understands.

"At the end of the day, we've just got to do the best we can," he says, "and God will be all right with that."

E-mail Charles Honey: choney@grpress.com

© 2009 Michigan Live. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

ABC VIDEO: Israeli Soldiers Admit to War Crimes

Rift develops between Muslims, FBI over mosque surveillance

Thursday, March 26, 2009
By SEAN EMERY

The Orange County Register

IRVINE – A coalition of Islamic organizations angered by reports of the government sending a paid informant to infiltrate Orange County mosques is threatening to cut ties with the FBI and accusing the agency of using "McCarthy-era tactics."

The announcement by the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections comes on the heels of Irvine resident Craig Monteilh's admission that he spent more than a year pretending to embrace Islam in various Southern California mosques as part of an FBI-led effort to weed out terrorist threats.

Monteilh claims that the conversations he recorded helped lead to the arrest last month of Ahmadullah Sais Niazi, a Tustin resident and member of the Islamic Center of Irvine, on several immigration-fraud charges. FBI officials at Niazi's bail hearing claimed he had been secretly recorded discussing terrorist plots.

Monteilh's admission, as well as Niazi's arrest, have shocked and frightened the local Muslim community, said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the Council on Islamic American Relations (CAIR), a member of the American Muslim Taskforce.

Ayloush said Monteih, who had previously served a prison term for conning two women out of more than $150,000, violated the sanctity of the Islamic religion.

"The government was paying a convicted felon who would probably not be trusted to be a cashier at a supermarket,'' Ayloush said. "Yet the FBI found it acceptable to entrust this convicted felon with national security issues.

"We're not talking about a sending an informant to track a specific suspect,'' he said. "Based on the admission of the informant himself… he was just fishing around for potential victims. These are not the acts of an agency interested in an honest dialogue or partnership."

The FBI has not addressed the specific allegations brought by the Islamic groups, but has urged continued cooperation.

"Limiting honest dialogue, especially when complex issues are on the table, is generally not an effective advocacy strategy," FBI spokesman John Miller said in a written release. "The FBI has continued our outreach efforts, across the board, with a number of concerned groups and where we agree -- or disagree -- most have concluded the best results are achieved through continued conversation. We believe that too."

Ayloush described the threat to cease working with the FBI as a "cry for help." The Islamic organizations feel betrayed by a "nationwide pattern of abuse and violations of civil rights, as well as religious rights," Ayloush said, particularly during the Bush administration.

"If the FBI is incapable of reforming its mindset as it deals with American Muslims, we need to help the FBI change," Ayloush said. "We have a president and an attorney general who represent an administration that has made commitments to protecting the civil and religious rights of all Americans, and undo much of the policies and culture of polarization and demonization against Muslims."

CAIR has had its own rocky relationship with the FBI, which recently announced that it has ended formal partnerships with the group. CAIR had previously assisted the FBI with outreach efforts to Muslim groups in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, and also helped with cultural sensitivity training for government agents.

But CAIR came under fire in 2007, when it was among 300 Muslim groups and individuals named as unindicted co-conspirators in a terrorist funding case against the Holy Land Foundation, which ended in a mistrial.

Several individuals with ties to CAIR have also been convicted or deported for their connections to terrorist groups. CAIR officials strenuously deny any terrorist links, however, and accuse political opponents of tarring them with guilt by association.

"CAIR still has the same access to the FBI as any other person or group to report hate crimes, civil rights violations or any other threat or violation of federal law,'' Miller said in the written statement. "What we have sought to limit are any formally constructed partnerships between CAIR and the FBI.

"Our concerns relate to a number of distinct narrow issues specific to CAIR and its national leadership,'' he said. "We have made CAIR's national leadership aware of these issues."

FBI Spying on Mosques Draws Senate Attention (OC Weekly)

FBI Spying on Mosques Draws Senate Attention; Rights Workshop Helps Local Muslims Deal With the Feds Thursday, Mar. 26 2009 @ 2:08PM

By Matt Coker in A Clockwork Orange, OC Religion

A Senate Judiciary Committee questioned FBI Director Robert Mueller Wednesday about a Muslim coalition's consideration of breaking ties with the bureau following the highly publicized federal government spying on an Irvine mosque.

Meanwhile, a workshop has been organized for this Sunday to help local American Muslims deal with this frightening new twist in the "Global War on Terror." Details on that in a bit.

First, as mentioned here last week, the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT), a coalition of major national Islamic organizations, announced they were considering suspending outreach relations with the FBI over recent incidents in which American mosques and Muslim groups have been targeted. "In California, the FBI sent a convicted criminal to pose as an agent provocateur in several of that state's mosques," read the statement. "An FBI agent allegedly told one of the mosque attendees that the agency would make his life a 'living hell' if he did not become an informant."

The mosque attendee is 34-year-old Afghan native Ahmad Niazi, who was arrested at his Tustin home on Feb. 20 on five fraud and perjury counts. Irvine fitness instructor Craig Monteilh has identified himself as the informant. The FBI has remained mum. The Orange County Register and Christian Science Monitor have editorialized against the spying.

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) told Mueller he was "disappointed" to learn of the AMT statement in light of recent discussions urging "the FBI to gain the trust of the American Muslim community to assist in the effort to stop terrorism."

Reading from a news report where AMT claims the FBI has pressured Muslims to become informants, labeled civil rights advocates as criminals and spread misinformation, Feingold had a question for Mueller: "Can you determine and report to this committee whether mosques have been entered by FBI agents or informants without disclosing their identities under the authority of the attorney general guidelines and, if so, how many?"

(New Justice Department guidelines that took effect in December have lowered the threshold for beginning FBI investigations, allowing race and ethnicity to be factors in opening a probe. The ACLU has a fact sheet on the guidelines here.)

Replied Mueller: "I will say that we do not focus on institutions, we focus on individuals. And I will say generally if there is evidence or information as to individual or individuals undertaking illegal activities in religious institutions, with appropriate high-level approval, we would undertake investigative activities, regardless of the religion. But it would -- we would single that out as an exceptionally sensitive circumstance that would require much vetting before that occurred..."

Feingold then asked if the new attorney general guidelines are helping or hurting the FBI's relationship with the U.S. Muslim community, and what the bureau plans to do in light of the AMT statement to improve relations. Mueller responded that his "expectation is that our relationships are as good now as before the guidelines" and he added that the Muslim community "has been tremendously supportive and worked very closely with [the FBI] in a number of instances around the country."

The souring relationship between the federal government and American Muslims prompted various groups to sponsor Sunday's workshop aimed at reminding local followers of Islam "of their civil and civic responsibilities." The "Know Your Rights" workshop -- sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations Greater Los Angeles Area Chapter (CAIR-LA), the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, Muslim Public Affairs Council and Muslim American Society West -- begins at 5:15 p.m. at the Islamic Institute of Orange County, 1220 N. State College Blvd., Anaheim.

Speakers include Jim Lafferty, director of the National Lawyers Guild--Los Angeles; Hussam Ayloush, executive director of CAIR-LA; Shakeel Syed, director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California; and Imam Abdul Karim Hasan.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

FBI and American Muslims at odds

An informant at a California mosque has hampered efforts to find home-grown terrorists.
By Alexandra Marks | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
from the March 25, 2009 edition

http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0325/p02s01-ussc.html

Law enforcement efforts to root out home-grown terrorists are jeopardized by deteriorating relations between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Muslim and Arab-American communities.

The situation began last fall when the FBI quietly withdrew formal relations with all local chapters of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), one of the largest Muslim American civil rights organizations. The FBI cited "a number of distinct narrow issues" that it has refused to make public.

The situation worsened in February, when it became public that the FBI had planted an informant at a California mosque who, a coalition of more than a dozen Muslim American groups charges, actively tried to recruit terrorists.

Last week, the coalition accused the FBI of engaging in "McCarthy-era tactics" and announced it was considering suspending all ties with the FBI unless it made public its concerns with CAIR and "reassessed its use of agent provocateurs in Muslim communities."

The FBI would not comment, except to issue a statement saying: "Limiting honest dialogue, especially when complex issues are on the table, is generally not an effective advocacy strategy."

That has not satisfied many in the Muslim and Arab-American communities, including some who have not joined the coalition threatening to terminate FBI ties.

"We believe that we have to keep our place at the table in this discourse. We believe it's too important for our community's interest and America's interest to leave the table," says Salam Al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles. "But the damage was done [when the FBI planted the agent].... The way the FBI handled the case stigmatized the whole mosque community, and the disengagement from CAIR field offices was a mistake because people don't understand it – there's no explanation."

In the aftermath of 9/11, the FBI made an aggressive effort to reach out to Muslim and Arab-American organizations throughout the country. In general, the effort was viewed as a success by all parties.

Relations had been good

On its website, CAIR lists dozens of laudatory quotes from FBI officials they cooperated with since the attacks. FBI officials regularly attended their banquets, mosques and community outreach efforts.

CAIR officials said the FBI's decision to sever formal ties with its 30 field offices in 19 states came as a shock.

"Historically, we've had very good relations with the FBI at the local, state, and federal levels," says CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper.

The FBI declined to say what "distinct narrow issues" had prompted it to suddenly sever ties with CAIR. But in a statement, FBI spokesman John Miller said, "We have made CAIR's national leadership aware of these issues."

CAIR's Mr. Hooper says that is not the case.

"They have not communicated specific issues to us, and when we ask, they say, 'Well, let's have some future conversation about it'," says Hooper. "And we say, 'No, we'd like to know now.'"

CAIR believes the decision goes back to May 2007, when it was named along with 300 other Muslim American groups and individuals as an "unindicted coconspirator" in the controversial terrorist funding trial of the Holy Land Foundation, which was once the largest Muslim charity in the United States.

After a mistrial in 2007, the charity and some of its officials were found guilty in 2008 for ties to Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist organization.

In a letter to the FBI, CAIR argues that the "unindicted coconspirator" designation should never have been made or made public.

"Making this unjust designation public violates the Justice Department's own guidelines and wrongly implies that those listed are somehow involved in criminal activity," the CAIR letter states.

A source within the FBI confirmed that the alleged ties to the Holy Land Foundation were the basis for the FBI's actions. He also said, that as a result of the final conviction in the Holy Land case, "there was a public policy problem with us going forward" in formal relations with CAIR.

Muslim and Arab American groups are also upset with the FBI's decision to allegedly place an ex-convict as an informant in the Muslim American Community in Orange County, California.

The informant posed as a new convert to Islam and reportedly espoused terrorist ideology to several members of the Islamic Center of Irvine. That prompted two members of the mosque, including a man named Ahmadullah Sais Niazi, to report the informant's inflammatory statements to the FBI and ask for a restraining order against him.

FBI officials then began investigating Mr. Niazi and asked him to become an informant, according to the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections, which has formally filed a complaint with the FBI. When Niazi refused, an agent told him he'd make his life "a living hell." Niazi has since been arrested and charged with making false statements to gain his citizenship and failing to disclose that his sister is married to an Al Qaeda operative, according to court documents.

At his bail hearing, an FBI Agent also said Niazi had allegedly been recorded discussing terrorist ideology, jihad and plans to blow up abandoned buildings. Niazi pleaded innocent."

An 'agent provocateur?'

Members of the Muslim American community say they're incensed by the FBI's use of what they call an "agent provocateur" within its community.

"It's pretty devastating, it came as a shock," says Kareem Shora – executive director of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

"What this has done is undermine what was a 10-year relationship of trust, or what we thought was trust," says Mr. Shora.

The FBI insists it is not targeting mosques or the community, but individuals.

"We do not target places, we don't investigate mosques. We identify individuals who merit investigation under a set of laws and guidelines," says the FBI's Mr. Miller.

"In the course of those investigations sometimes those people will take us to the places they go," Miller said.

But the FBI informant, a man named Craig Monteilh, told reporters last week that he was sent to several mosques and that he had alerted the FBI about Niazi's alleged terrorist sympathies.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Did the FBI order the torture of a U.S. Citizen abroad?


American Muslim's Case Poses a Test
U.S. Role Alleged in Detention in UAE

By Karl Vick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 23, 2009;


One day last July, Naji Hamdan was summoned to the U.S. Embassy in the United Arab Emirates. He drove two hours through the desert heat from Dubai to answer questions from FBI agents who had arrived from Los Angeles, where Hamdan had gone to school, started a family, built a successful auto-parts business and become a U.S. citizen.

At his apartment six weeks later, he was awakened from a nap by men who bundled him into a black Chevrolet Suburban with tinted windows. Hamdan was told he was a prisoner of the UAE and was held in a cell painted glossy white to reflect the lights that burned round the clock, according to a note he wrote from prison. Between interrogations, he wrote, he was confined in a frigid room overnight, strapped into "an electric chair" and punched in the head until he lost consciousness.

In one session, the blindfolded prisoner recalled hearing a voice that sounded American. The voice said, "Do what they want or these people will [expletive] you up," Hamdan wrote.

The prisoner obliged, signing a confession that he later said meant only that he would do anything to make the pain stop. The case might have ended there but for Hamdan's U.S. citizenship and his American attorney's assertion that he was tortured "at the behest" of his own government.

"This is torture by proxy," said Ahilan Arulanantham, an American Civil Liberties Union staff lawyer representing Hamdan through his brother and wife. Noting that the UAE had shown no interest in Hamdan before arresting him, Arulanantham filed a habeas corpus petition in November in U.S. District Court in Washington. The petition alleges that the federal government used its influence to have Hamdan arrested and insists that it should use that influence to free him.

The evidence of U.S. involvement is circumstantial and sometimes ambiguous. Arulanantham said the UAE prosecutor in the case traveled to the United States in February. He said that a week after the habeas petition made public Hamdan's detention, custody was transferred to the UAE criminal justice system, where he faces nonspecific charges of "promoting terrorism." Justice Department lawyers say the transfer lines up with the expiration of a 90-day UAE limit on secret detention.

The FBI issued a statement saying it does not ask other governments to arrest people on its behalf, but in court papers it stops short of denying the involvement of any U.S. agency in Hamdan's detention.

"In terrorism matters, we routinely work with foreign counterparts," Richard Kolko, a bureau spokesman, said in a statement.

The United Arab Emirates' embassy in Washington declined to comment "since this is a police-security matter, which involves a U.S. citizen," a spokeswoman said in an e-mail.

In the long list of individuals accused, renditioned, arrested or otherwise detained since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Hamdan case stands out. Three Americans are known to have been arrested by foreign governments at the apparent direction of U.S. authorities, each amid circumstances more suspicious than those surrounding Hamdan.

In 2007, Kenyan authorities detained Amir Meshal of Tinton, N.J., and Daniel Joseph Maldonado of Houston after they were captured among Islamist fighters fleeing a U.S.-backed offensive in Somalia. And Saudi Arabian security officers provided the bulk of the evidence against Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, a Falls Church man convicted in 2005 of plotting with al-Qaeda.

Though the events detailed by Hamdan's attorney occurred before President Obama was sworn in, human rights groups and others said they will monitor his response. Obama has declared that "the United States will not torture," and CIA Director Leon Panetta said in his confirmation hearings that the United States will not turn over suspects to governments that will abuse them.

Deborah Manning, an attorney for Alkarama, a human rights organization focused on the Middle East, said the case "bridges the practices of the past, and we hope we're in a new era, but this is a litmus test."

The torture accusations are from Hamdan's accounts to relatives and a handwritten eight-page note carried out of Abu Dhabi's Al Wathba prison by a U.S. diplomat required to check on the suspect's welfare.

After being beaten on the soles of his feet and kicked in the liver, Hamdan said, "I admitted to whatever they asked."

"Sometimes when he talks to me, he's crying," said Mona Mallouk, his wife, by phone from Beirut, where she went after the arrest with their two children, born in Los Angeles.

"When they beat him hard . . . his voice changed. I said 'Naji? Are you okay?' He said, 'No, I'm not okay. They hit me, badly. I don't know why, Mona.' "

Hamdan's family and associates said they are perplexed by the FBI's interest. The businessman was known to be religious, but in the mainstream vein of fellow Muslim students who set aside a dorm room as a mosque at Northrop-Rice University, where Hamdan studied aviation engineering in the 1980s.

After the worship space moved to downtown Hawthorne, Hamdan often presided during the holy month of Ramadan.

The FBI knocked on Hamdan's door in December 1999, when several other local Muslims were approached after the discovery of the "millennium plot" targeting Los Angeles International Airport. After Sept. 11, 2001, official attention became more routine, often in airport security lines.

"We get used to it," said Hossam Hemdan, Hamdan's brother, who runs a smog-inspection shop. "They always, always, always ask the same questions: How long you been living here? What's your business? What's the phone number?"

Hemdan said that as many as three Crown Victorias began following his brother in 2006. Jehad Suleman, a friend and business associate of Hamdan's in Los Angeles, said it was around that time when his own airport interrogators began asking him about Hamdan.

No one claims to know why. The ACLU encouraged Muslim residents to request their FBI files, and Hamdan was surprised to find that the agency had started his file in the mid-1990s, his relatives said.

The attention on Hamdan came from several directions. FBI agents visited his business, jotting down serial numbers on an acre of car parts. The IRS audited him twice.

Hamdan, 42, chafed at the surveillance, so conspicuous that the imam at the Hawthorne mosque asked him to keep his distance. But confidants said his decision to return to the Middle East was equally grounded in unease with Hawthorne's schools, where gangs and drugs remain problems.

In August 2006, Hamdan moved the family to Dubai. At the Los Angeles airport, he was questioned for so long that he missed his flight. When he returned in 2007 for a visit, the FBI surveillance was continuous, associates said.

Things were not going smoothly abroad, either. In early 2008, while waiting for a flight in Beirut, Hamdan was arrested and interrogated for four days by Lebanese authorities. Hamden said a lawyer the family later hired to examine the court file said his detention was at the request of "outside influences."

Last July, FBI agents passed a request to Hamdan to report to the embassy in Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital, then flew there to question him. "What did they want?" his brother recalled asking Hamdan, who he said replied: " 'Whatever they ask at the airport, same thing. You can't imagine how much they know about us. If you ever forget something in your life, a certain spot, call them. They'll tell you.' "

Six weeks later, the security police took him away, then returned to carry away all things electronic.

In Los Angeles, Hamdan's banker, Dan Suie, of the Asian Pacific Revolving Loan Fund, said an FBI agent delivered a subpoena in early January. The bureau wanted paperwork on loans for Hamdan's business, records the banker said contained nothing suspicious.

"I deal with people who, you know, shake their hands and count your fingers," Suie said. "But [Hamdan] was a very decent person, a very nice guy."

The mosque has mounted a campaign demanding Hamdan's return to the United States to face whatever charges he is suspected of.

For more information, visit:
http://www.masfreedom.org/cases/naji_hamdan.html

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ex-Bush official: Only two dozen of 800 at Gitmo are guilty

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- A former Bush administration official says many Guantanamo detainees are innocent, and have been held only because U.S. officials hoped they would know something important.

Lawrence B. Wilkerson was chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell. He says only two dozen or so of the roughly 800 men held at Guantanamo are terrorists. About 240 prisoners remain at the US military prison.

"There are still innocent people there," Wilkerson told The Associated Press on Thursday. "Some have been there six or seven years."

Wilkerson says he learned of their innocence through State Department briefings and military commanders. He first made the allegations in an Internet posting this week.

The Pentagon has said the detainees are dangerous enemy combatants.

FBI creates climate of fear (O.C. Register Editorial)

Supporters of the Patriot Act and other expansive efforts to fight the “war on terror” often mock claims by civil libertarians that aggressive federal spying powers within the United States undermines civil liberties. We've often heard conservatives ask critics to name anyone who has lost any freedoms because of the government's post-9/11 powers.

Yet such dismissive attitudes toward government snooping are easily rebutted by recent events in Orange County. A convicted con artist named Craig Monteilh admitted last month that he infiltrated local mosques on behalf of the FBI and recorded conversations about the possibility of blowing up buildings. Although the FBI won't confirm Mr. Monteilh's identity, the agency acknowledges that one suspect had been secretly recorded by an informant, according to a Register report.

Local Muslims say that Mr. Monteilh, who went by Farouk al-Aziz, tried to bait them into discussing radical politics. Hussam Ayloush, head of the greater Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Anaheim, told us that Mr. Monteilh went from one young Muslim to another and engaged in radical discourse that promoted terrorism. Some people, he said, stopped going to mosque to avoid these discussions. Some mosque-goers contacted the FBI to report the incident but were referred to the Irvine Police Department, he said. Mr. Ayloush said those men who called the authorities then became the subject of FBI interrogations.

We've heard reports that Muslims are afraid to talk about politics or civil liberties issues within their mosques or even among their friends because of fear that it will draw attention from undercover agents. We agree with Mr. Ayloush, that “there should not be a presumption of guilt among an entire community.” This could backfire, he explained, as the FBI should supposedly work with American Muslims in the event of a terrorist threat, not treat them as adversaries by creating fear of surveillance within mosques.

Everyone understands the need for legitimate undercover activities in response to credible evidence. But we cannot fathom the justification for fishing expeditions and entrapment. Nationwide, some of the supposed terrorist “plots” the FBI has claimed to have foiled have simply been cases of entrapment involving Muslims without the intent or wherewithal or to pull off any attacks.

Infiltrating mosques without evidence of crime is an affront to the First Amendment. We know the retort from the law-and-order crowd: If you've done nothing wrong, you've got nothing to fear. That is the motto of a police state. Law-abiding, honest, terrorism-hating Americans have every legitimate reason to watch their words in front of a federal agent. No one wants to face trouble with powerful government agencies. So the natural tendency is to stay quiet or avoid places the government might be monitoring. That's what people always have done in totalitarian and authoritarian nations.

The FBI's activities have led a consortium of Muslim groups to “consider suspending ongoing outreach efforts with the FBI.” We can hardly blame them. Perhaps the Obama administration will rethink this counterproductive and un-American strategy.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Gitmo Guard Who Found Islam

(Photo source: Matt Slaby-Luceo for Newsweek)

The Guard Who Found Islam

Terry Holdbrooks stood watch over prisoners at Gitmo. What he saw made him adopt their faith.

Dan Ephron,NEWSWEEK
From the magazine issue dated Mar 30, 2009


Army specialist Terry Holdbrooks had been a guard at Guantánamo for about six months the night he had his life-altering conversation with detainee 590, a Moroccan also known as "the General." This was early 2004, about halfway through Holdbrooks's stint at Guantánamo with the 463rd Military Police Company. Until then, he'd spent most of his day shifts just doing his duty. He'd escort prisoners to interrogations or walk up and down the cellblock making sure they weren't passing notes. But the midnight shifts were slow. "The only thing you really had to do was mop the center floor," he says. So Holdbrooks began spending part of the night sitting cross-legged on the ground, talking to detainees through the metal mesh of their cell doors.

He developed a strong relationship with the General, whose real name is Ahmed Errachidi. Their late-night conversations led Holdbrooks to be more skeptical about the prison, he says, and made him think harder about his own life. Soon, Holdbrooks was ordering books on Arabic and Islam. During an evening talk with Errachidi in early 2004, the conversation turned to the shahada, the one-line statement of faith that marks the single requirement for converting to Islam ("There is no God but God and Muhammad is his prophet"). Holdbrooks pushed a pen and an index card through the mesh, and asked Errachidi to write out the shahada in English and transliterated Arabic. He then uttered the words aloud and, there on the floor of Guantánamo's Camp Delta, became a Muslim...

Read full article.

Damn those Palestinians! Can't they learn to share?

If those Palestinians just learn to share their land with the Israelis, then they will get piece; a little piece of their historic land.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Challenging a culture of hate, even on T-shirts

A shocking Haaretz article on the culture of hatred that exists in the Israeli Army.

Source: Haaretz Newspaper

"A T-shirt for infantry snipers bears the inscription "Better use Durex," next to a picture of a dead Palestinian baby, with his weeping mother and a teddy bear beside him. A sharpshooter's T-shirt from the Givati Brigade's Shaked battalion shows a pregnant Palestinian woman with a bull's-eye superimposed on her belly, with the slogan, in English, "1 shot, 2 kills." A "graduation" shirt for those who have completed another snipers course depicts a Palestinian baby, who grows into a combative boy and then an armed adult, with the inscription, "No matter how it begins, we'll put an end to it."..."


Translation:
'Every Arab mother must know that the fate of her son is in my hands' (photo: Nir Kafri)

Translation:
From left: "The smaller, the tougher"; "Only God forgives"

Read more at:

IDF T-Shirts Boast of Killing Babies, Pregnant Women, Sodomizing Hamas Leaders

CNN: FBI planting spies in U.S. mosques, Muslim groups say

By Eliott C. McLaughlin
CNN, 3/20/2009

(CNN) -- Ten U.S. Muslim organizations threatened this week to cease working with the FBI, citing "McCarthy-era tactics" by the agency, including efforts to covertly infiltrate California mosques.

The groups claim the FBI has sent undercover agents posing as worshippers into mosques, pressured Muslims to become informants, labeled civil rights advocates as criminals and spread misinformation.

The FBI declined to comment on specific allegations but called the proposed move unproductive.

"Limiting honest dialogue, especially when complex issues are on the table, is generally not an effective advocacy strategy," spokesman John Miller said in a statement. "The FBI has continued our outreach efforts, across the board, with a number of concerned groups and where we agree -- or disagree -- most have concluded the best results are achieved through continued conversation. We believe that, too."

[My note: The problem is that many in the Muslim community no longer feel confident that the FBI is pursuing an honest dialogue with the Muslim community. This was the result of confirmed reports that, while the Muslim community engaged in honest partnership building and dialogue with the FBI for eight years, the FBI was paying convicted felons to "inflitrate" mosques to radicalize Muslim youths and instigate talks about terrorism action. Integrity and honesty are the foundation of any relationship.]

The group's statement, dated Tuesday, said several incidents of the FBI "targeting Muslim Americans lead us to consider suspending ongoing outreach efforts."

The statement was issued by the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections, whose director, Agha Saeed, couldn't immediately comment because of a family emergency.

The FBI has sent "agents provocateur" into California mosques, according to the statement, which says an FBI agent threatened to make one mosque member's life a "living hell" if he did not become an informant.

Though the statement does not name the mosque member, the Council on American-Islamic Relations said last month it would seek an investigation into the February 21 arrest of Ahmadullah Niazi, an Afghanistan native.

"Mr. Niazi previously reported to [CAIR's Los Angeles office] 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,' " a news release said.

Niazi, a member of the Islamic Center of Irvine, told CAIR his arrest was retaliation for his refusal, the release said.

The FBI directed questions about Niazi's arrest to the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles, California, which declined comment.

Niazi, 34, was indicted last month on charges of perjury, procuring naturalization unlawfully, using a passport procured by fraud and making false statements. A search warrant for Niazi's Tustin, California, home said Niazi became a naturalized citizen in 2004 and made false statements about his past aliases and international travel.

He also made false statements about contact with his brother-in-law Amin ul-Haq, the indictment said. Ul-Haq is said to be Osama bin Laden's security coordinator and has been labeled a "specially designated global terrorist" by the U.S. government, the indictment said.

An FBI agent said in open court that Niazi also had discussed terrorist plots with an undercover informant, according to media reports. Niazi has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

CAIR's problems with the FBI began before Niazi's arrest. Last year, the FBI discontinued its "formal contact" with CAIR.

The Tuesday statement said the FBI unjustly designated CAIR and other organizations as "unindicted co-conspirators" in the Holy Land Foundation case. A jury convicted Holy Land Foundation leaders last year of conspiring to support terrorism and launder money for a terrorist group.

"Making this unjust designation public violates the Justice Department's own guidelines and wrongly implies that those listed are somehow involved in criminal activity," the statement said.

The FBI's Miller declined to comment on specifics, but said the FBI wants to avoid "formally constructed partnerships" with CAIR.

"Our concerns relate to a number of distinct narrow issues specific to CAIR and its national leadership," Miller said.

Before the FBI severed formal ties, CAIR officials had met with the FBI to discuss hate crimes targeting Muslims. On occasion, CAIR offered assistance in investigations. The group also held training sessions for FBI agents on Islamic culture and ways to improve interactions with the Muslim community.

CAIR this week called the FBI allegations a "campaign of smears and misinformation," a remnant of the Bush administration.

"It is not surprising that we would be targeted in a purely political move by those in the previous administration who sought to prevent us from defending the civil rights of American Muslims," said a statement from the group's national communications director, Ibrahim Hooper.

Tuesday's group statement also mentioned "a flourishing of anti-Muslim activity" during the previous administration and expressed fear that "counterintelligence programs are quelling lawful dissent."

Unless the FBI affords fair treatment to all mosques, Muslims and Muslim groups, the statement said, Muslims should consider suspending ties to the agency.

"This possible suspension, of course, would in no way affect our unshakable duty to report crimes or threats of violence to our nation," it said.

Friday, March 20, 2009

UN envoy: Gaza op seems to be war crime of greatest magnitude

Haaretz Newspaper, 3/19/2009

A United Nations human rights investigator said on Thursday that Israel's offensive against Hamas in densely populated Gaza appeared to constitute a war crime of the "greatest magnitude."

Richard Falk, UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, said the Geneva Conventions required warring forces to distinguish between military targets and surrounding civilians.

"If it is not possible to do so, then launching the attacks is inherently unlawful and would seem to constitute a war crime of the greatest magnitude under international law," Falk said.

"On the basis of the preliminary evidence available, there is reason to reach this conclusion," he wrote in an annual report submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Falk called for an independent experts group to be set up to probe possible war crimes committed by both Israeli forces and Hamas.

Violations included Israel's alleged "targeting of schools, mosques and ambulances" during the December 27-January 18 offensive and its use of weapons including white phosphorus, as well as Hamas firing of rockets at civilian targets in southern Israel.

Falk said that Israel's blockade of the coastal strip of 1.5 million people violated the Geneva Conventions, which he said suggested further war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity.

The aggression was not legally justified and may represent a "crime against peace" - a principle established at the Nuremberg trials of Nazi criminals, according to the American law professor who serves as the Human Rights Council's independent investigator.

He further suggested that the Security Council might set up an ad hoc criminal tribunal to establish accountability for war crimes in Gaza, noting Israel has not signed the Rome statutes establishing the International Criminal Court.

Israeli soldiers admit killing Palestinian civilians

Not that any one of us should be surprised by this news.

---
IDF in Gaza: Killing civilians, vandalism, and lax rules of engagement
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent
3/19/2009

During Operation Cast Lead, Israeli forces killed Palestinian civilians under permissive rules of engagement and intentionally destroyed their property, say soldiers who fought in the offensive.

The soldiers are graduates of the Yitzhak Rabin pre-military preparatory course at Oranim Academic College in Tivon. Some of their statements made on Feb. 13 will appear Thursday and Friday in Haaretz. Dozens of graduates of the course who took part in the discussion fought in the Gaza operation.

The speakers included combat pilots and infantry soldiers. Their testimony runs counter to the Israel Defense Forces' claims that Israeli troops observed a high level of moral behavior during the operation. The session's transcript was published this week in the newsletter for the course's graduates.

The testimonies include a description by an infantry squad leader of an incident where an IDF sharpshooter mistakenly shot a Palestinian mother and her two children. "There was a house with a family inside .... We put them in a room. Later we left the house and another platoon entered it, and a few days after that there was an order to release the family. They had set up positions upstairs. There was a sniper position on the roof," the soldier said.

"The platoon commander let the family go and told them to go to the right. One mother and her two children didn't understand and went to the left, but they forgot to tell the sharpshooter on the roof they had let them go and it was okay, and he should hold his fire and he ... he did what he was supposed to, like he was following his orders."

According to the squad leader: "The sharpshooter saw a woman and children approaching him, closer than the lines he was told no one should pass. He shot them straight away. In any case, what happened is that in the end he killed them.

"I don't think he felt too bad about it, because after all, as far as he was concerned, he did his job according to the orders he was given. And the atmosphere in general, from what I understood from most of my men who I talked to ... I don't know how to describe it .... The lives of Palestinians, let's say, is something very, very less important than the lives of our soldiers. So as far as they are concerned they can justify it that way," he said.

Another squad leader from the same brigade told of an incident where the company commander ordered that an elderly Palestinian woman be shot and killed; she was walking on a road about 100 meters from a house the company had commandeered.

The squad leader said he argued with his commander over the permissive rules of engagement that allowed the clearing out of houses by shooting without warning the residents beforehand. After the orders were changed, the squad leader's soldiers complained that "we should kill everyone there [in the center of Gaza]. Everyone there is a terrorist."

The squad leader said: "You do not get the impression from the officers that there is any logic to it, but they won't say anything. To write 'death to the Arabs' on the walls, to take family pictures and spit on them, just because you can. I think this is the main thing: To understand how much the IDF has fallen in the realm of ethics, really. It's what I'll remember the most."

More soldiers' testimonies will be published in Haaretz over the coming days.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

CAIR-CA & MAS Freedom Support Employee Free Choice Act


CAIR-CA and MAS Freedom Join IWJ and other Groups in Support of Employee Free Choice Act


(LOS ANGELES, CA, 3/17/09) - The Council on American-Islamic Relations-California (CAIR-CA) and the Muslim American Society's MAS Freedom (MASF) join Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) in support of the Employee Free Choice Act, which was introduced in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate last week.

In a joint statement, MAS Freedom Executive Director Mahdi Bray and CAIR-Los Angeles Executive Director Hussam Ayloush, both national board members with IWJ, said:

"Workers who demand the right to their free association with labor unions operate not only within the parameters of American law, but also within the boundaries of the Islamic concept of justice."

READ FULL STATEMENT HERE:
An Islamic Perspective in Support of the Employee Free Choice Act (scroll down to see the Islamic Perspective on the issue)

SEE ALSO: Union Legislation Drive Begins in Congress (New York Times blog)

The Employee Free Choice Act is expected to play a critical role in improving the lives of poor and working class families by giving them the opportunity to negotiate their own economic security. The Act provides workers an opportunity to form unions through card checks or secret ballot elections. Under the current law, management has the power to decide whether to recognize a union through card checks or secret ballot elections, often times intimidating workers through the election process.

SEE: Clash Over Labor-Rights Bill Appears Likely (Washington Post)

"For Muslims, justice is an integral and indispensable part of all human relationships, including those within the workplace, and between employers and workers. This concept of justice means fairness, balance, and reciprocal respect for the dignity and rights of owners, managers, and employees. One of these rights is the right of free association for the protection of the dignity and economic well-being of working people."



ACTION REQUESTED: (As always, be polite and respectful)

1.You can take action now by calling Congress and letting them know you support the Employee Free Choice Act. Call the Capitol switchboard (202-224-3121) and ask them to transfer you to your Representative and both State Senators.


For More Information on EFCA please visit our websites and blog

www.TheTruthAboutEFCA.Org

http://www.employeefreechoiceactnow.org

http://efcanow.blogspot.com/

http://efcaunionbustingclub.blogspot.com/

http://www.FreeChoiceActNow.Org

http://www.LaborUnionResources.Org

Bashing Muslims promotes fear for all

Bashing Muslims promotes fear for all

Hussam Ayloush
Special to The Desert Sun
March 18, 2009

In a post-Sept. 11 America, inciting Islamophobia and attempting to marginalize Muslims is a lucrative business. Extremists like Steven Emerson seek to polarize our nation and world to continue profiting from the industry of fear.

Emerson uses methods of distortion, exaggeration and outright falsehood to demonize Muslims and urge fellow Americans to fear Islam.

He borrows terminology and tactics once employed by Nazi Germany to justify anti- Semitic hate to help create similar hatred of American Muslims in America.

In his talk, titled “The Islamic Threat,” Emerson is quoted by The Desert Sun as saying that “Islam's ‘leadership and organizational superstructure' threaten Western values” and that (radical) Muslims “want to conquer the United States. They want to conquer Europe.”

Try replacing the word “Islam” or “Muslims” with the word “Jews,” “Latinos,” “Catholics” or “blacks” in his quotes and note how repulsive and hateful those comments sound. So, why have we become de-sensitized to anti- Muslim bigotry?

Why are agenda-driven propagandists such as Emerson allowed to disregard the more than 1 billion peaceful Muslims who are hard-working, family-oriented people seeking a better life for their children? Why are the positive contributions of 6 million to 7 million American Muslims substituted with guilt by association and fear-mongering that places the local Muslim community at risk of discrimination and hate crimes?

True Islamophobe

A leading national media watch group, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting, listed Emerson as one of the top 12 Islamophobes in America. These Islamophobes, together, “form a network that teaches Americans to see Islam in fearful terms and their Muslim neighbors as suspects,” (www.smearcasting.com).

It is no wonder Emerson attempts to marginalize American Muslims and their leading organizations and label them as terrorist-sympathizers. It is puzzling that Emerson gets to promote his bigotry, unchallenged, at the invitation of an esteemed institution such as the World Affairs Council or in the pages of The Desert Sun.

CAIR is one of the most respected Muslim advocacy organizations in America. We work closely with our nation's interfaith leaders, elected officials, media professionals and law enforcement agencies to provide them with the Muslim community's perspective on issues varying from national security to civil rights and to promote tolerance and mutual understanding.

CAIR and the Muslim community repeatedly and unequivocally condemn all forms of terrorism because Islam teaches us to value life - every life.

Emerson is entitled to free speech, including hate speech.

But residents of the desert cities deserved better than hate-mongering.

As our country and world face the challenges of polarization, extremism and terrorism, we need voices of understanding, peace and moderation from all faith communities.

Hussam Ayloush is executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Greater Los Angeles Area office. Reach him at hayloush@cair.com.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

U.S. Muslim Coalition Considers Suspending Relations with FBI

Move comes following incidents of FBI targeting mosques, Muslim groups


(WASHINGTON, D.C., 3/17/2009) – A coalition of major national Islamic organizations today announced that it is considering suspending outreach relations with the FBI, citing recent incidents in which American mosques and Muslim groups have been targeted.

In a statement, the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT), said:

Muslim communities throughout the United States have made significant advances in promoting and contributing to a fair, free and pluralistic society.

Through civil rights advocacy, civic and political engagement, and the promotion of dialogue with interfaith leaders and law enforcement agencies, Muslim Americans continue to be a positive and stabilizing force in keeping our nation safe and secure from acts of violence and foreign threats.

Despite fear-mongering by a vocal minority, Muslim Americans are natural allies of law enforcement agencies in ensuring the wellbeing of our nation. Muslims are law-abiding and productive citizens who uphold the democratic principles of freedom, equality and justice.

Yet recent incidents targeting American Muslims lead us to consider suspending ongoing outreach efforts with the FBI.

In California, the FBI sent a convicted criminal to pose as an agents provocateurs in several of that state’s mosques. An FBI agent allegedly told one of the mosque attendees that the agency would make his life a "living hell" if he did not become an informant.

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) wrote in a recent statement, headlined “FBI Losing Partnership with American Muslim Community” - “Trust is the cornerstone of any partnership between law enforcement and communities. It can only be established and maintained through clear and open communication. Without this, trust is eroded and suspicions arise on all sides. This clearly does not serve anyone's interests…It is now up to the FBI and law enforcement agencies to re-engage with the Muslim American community, and re-build trust and respect.”

See: FBI Losing Partnership with American Muslim Community

http://www.mpac.org/article.php?id=793

Early last fall, the FBI began a disengagement campaign in its relations with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest and most respected Muslim civil rights organization. The FBI suspended contacts with CAIR pending the resolution of unspecified “issues.”

In response, the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, an umbrella organization of many Muslim groups, suspended outreach to the FBI in February. The council’s letter to the FBI stated in part:

“Our commitment to ensuring the rights, interests, and prosperity of American Muslims and all Americans is unconditional. We hope the FBI will have the foresight to restore its relationship with such a vital link to the American Muslim community.”

See: http://www.shuracouncil.org/images/special/onlineDocs/Shura-DOJ_Re_CAIR_Feb2009.pdf

We believe the FBI’s unjustified actions are based on the May 2007 designation of some 300 groups and individuals, including several major American Muslim groups such as CAIR, the Islamic society of North America (ISNA) and the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), as “unindicted co-conspirators” (UCC) in conjunction with the Holy Land Foundation trial in Dallas, Texas.

Making this unjust designation public violates the Justice Department’s own guidelines and wrongly implies that those listed are somehow involved in criminal activity.

Bias and faulty premises dominated post-9/11 law enforcement analysis of the Muslim community and the threat assessment to national security. The waning days of the previous administration witnessed a flourishing of anti-Muslim activity.

There is even inter-agency information being disseminated that claims civil rights advocacy is part of a Muslim conspiracy to implement Shari’a law in order to destroy the United States. Recent government actions seemed to be based on this bizarre premise.

These McCarthy-era tactics are detrimental to a free society.

The credibility of all Muslim organizations who maintain ties to the FBI that do not react decisively is undermined in the eyes of the community. Our fear is that counter-intelligence programs are quelling lawful dissent.

What is most frightening is that FBI abuses are no longer covert, and are slowly being integrated into the already expansive laws regulating law enforcement activity.

Internationally, in light of President Obama’s initiative of dialogue with the Muslim world, such actions negatively impact U.S. interests.

If the FBI does not accord fair and equitable treatment to every American Muslim organization, including CAIR, ISNA and NAIT, then Muslim organizations, mosques and individuals will have no choice but to consider suspending all outreach activities with FBI offices, agents and other personnel. This possible suspension, of course, would in no way affect our unshakable duty to report crimes or threats of violence to our nation.

We call on the FBI to reassess its positions on profiling and the use of informants as agents provocateurs within the Muslim communities. We further request objective evaluation of the sources of information and analysis utilized to formulate decisions.

Notwithstanding such requests, we call on Muslim organizations and individuals to petition their elected representatives to hold hearings to address these grave matters of concern to the Muslim community.

We fully expect that the President’s calls for inclusion will not be derailed by irresponsible elements in and outside of government fomenting anti-Muslim bias in this great nation.

- END -

Signatories to this statement include:

1. American Muslim Alliance (AMA)
2. American Muslims for Palestine (AMP)
3. Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
4. Islamic Educational Center of Orange County (IEC)
5. Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA)
6. Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA)
7. MAS Freedom (MASF)
8. Muslim Student Association-National (MSA-N)
9. Muslim Ummah of North America (MUNA)
10. United Muslims of America (UMA)

To add your organization, mosque or Islamic center as a signatory to this statement, e-mail: bestusa80@hotmail.com

Monday, March 16, 2009

Surprise! Surprise! Under Bush, the CIA practiced torture!

As if anyone had any doubts, the Red Cross concluded that the Bush administration's treatment of al-Qaeda captives "constituted torture". Of course, one should also consider the CIA's version of the story, except that the CIA conveniently destroyed 92 videotapes of its interrogations of detainees.

The use of torture is undoubtedly a form of terrorism, regardless who practices it.


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Red Cross Described 'Torture' at CIA Jails
Secret Report Implies That U.S. Violated International Law
By Joby Warrick, Peter Finn and Julie Tate
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, March 16, 2009

The International Committee of the Red Cross concluded in a secret report that the Bush administration's treatment of al-Qaeda captives "constituted torture," a finding that strongly implied that CIA interrogation methods violated international law, according to newly published excerpts from the long-concealed 2007 document.

The report, an account alleging physical and psychological brutality inside CIA "black site" prisons, also states that some U.S. practices amounted to "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment." Such maltreatment of detainees is expressly prohibited by the Geneva Conventions.

The findings were based on an investigation by ICRC officials, who were granted exclusive access to the CIA's "high-value" detainees after they were transferred in 2006 to the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The 14 detainees, who had been kept in isolation in CIA prisons overseas, gave remarkably uniform accounts of abuse that included beatings, sleep deprivation, extreme temperatures and, in some cases, waterboarding, or simulating drowning...

Many of the details of alleged mistreatment at CIA prisons had been reported previously, but the ICRC report is the most authoritative account and the first to use the word "torture" in a legal context...

"On a daily basis . . . a collar was looped around my neck and then used to slam me against the walls of the interrogation room," the report quotes detainee Tawfiq bin Attash, also known as Walid Muhammad bin Attash, as saying. Later, he said, he was wrapped in a plastic sheet while cold water was "poured onto my body with buckets." He added: "I would be wrapped inside the sheet with cold water for several minutes. Then I would be taken for interrogation."..

President George W. Bush acknowledged the use of coercive interrogation tactics on senior al-Qaeda captives detained by the CIA in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but he insisted that the measures complied with U.S. and international law. Former CIA director Michael V. Hayden confirmed last year that the measures included the use of waterboarding on three captives before 2003.

President Obama outlawed such practices within hours of his inauguration in January. But Obama has expressed reluctance to conduct a legal inquiry into the CIA's policies.

The report gives a graphic account of the treatment of Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein, better known as Abu Zubaida, a Saudi-born Palestinian who was the first alleged senior al-Qaeda operative seized after Sept. 11 -- a characterization of his role that is disputed by his attorneys, who describe him as having a different philosophy of jihad than bin Laden.

Abu Zubaida was severely wounded during a shootout in March 2002 at a safe house he ran in Faisalabad, Pakistan, and survived thanks to CIA-arranged medical care, including multiple surgeries. After he recovered, Abu Zubaida describes being shackled to a chair at the feet and hands for two to three weeks in a cold room with "loud, shouting type music" blaring constantly, according to the ICRC report. He said that he was questioned two to three hours a day and that water was sprayed in his face if he fell asleep.

At some point -- the timing is unclear from the New York Review of Books report -- Abu Zubaida's treatment became harsher. In July 2002, administration lawyers approved more aggressive techniques.

Abu Zubaida said interrogators wrapped a towel around his neck and slammed him into a plywood wall mounted in his cell. He was also repeatedly slapped in the face, he said. After the beatings, he was placed in coffinlike wooden boxes in which he was forced to crouch, with no light and a restricted air supply, he said.

"The stress on my legs held in this position meant my wounds both in my leg and stomach became very painful," he told the ICRC.

After he was removed from a small box, he said, he was strapped to what looked like a hospital bed and waterboarded. "A black cloth was then placed over my face and the interrogators used a mineral bottle to pour water on the cloth so that I could not breathe," Abu Zubaida said.

After breaks to allow him to recover, the waterboarding continued.

"I struggled against the straps, trying to breathe, but it was hopeless," he said. "I thought I was going to die."

In a federal court filing, Abu Zubaida's attorneys said he "has suffered approximately 175 seizures that appear to be directly related to his extensive torture -- particularly damage to Petitioner's head that was the result of beatings sustained at the hands of CIA interrogators and exacerbated by his lengthy isolation."...

Danner said the organization's use of the word "torture" has important legal implications.

"It could not be more important that the ICRC explicitly uses the words 'torture' and 'cruel and degrading,' " Danner said in a telephone interview. "The ICRC is the guardian of the Geneva Conventions, and when it uses those words, they have the force of law."

He discounted the possibility that the detainees fabricated or embellished their stories, noting that the accounts overlap "in minute detail," even though the detainees were kept in isolation at different locations...