About Me

My photo
Hussam has been a lifelong human rights activist who is passionate about promoting democratic societies, in the US and worldwide, in which all people, including immigrants, workers, minorities, and the poor enjoy freedom, justice, economic justice, respect, and equality. Mr. Ayloush frequently lectures on Islam, media relations, civil rights, hate crimes and international affairs. He has consistently appeared in local, national, and international media. Full biography at: http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2006/08/biography-of-hussam-ayloush.html

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The full story on the FBI's agent provocateur, Craig Monteilh

The FBI, the Islamic Center of Irvine and Craig Monteilh: Who Was Conning Whom?


Orange County Weekly

Published on April 29, 2009

Who Was that Mosqued Man?
Craig Monteilh insists he was hot on the trail of terrorist plots at OC mosques. Count the victims of his earlier con games among the skeptics


Hang in there...

Sometimes it might seem difficult, but keep hanging in there.

(otherwise you fall; and that would be worse )

(sorry, I don't have the credit for the photo)

Worried about swine flu? Watch this tip on video

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

An FBI joke. Enough serious FBI stories

An elderly Arab Muslim man lived close to New York City for more than 40 years.

One day he decided that he would love to plant potatoes and herbs in his garden, but he knew he was alone and too old and weak. His son was in college in Paris, so the old man sent his son an e-mail explaining the problem:

"Beloved son, I am very sad, because I can't plant potatoes in my garden.
I am sure, if only you were here, that you would help me and dig up the garden for me. Well, may be next year. I love you, your father."

The following day, the old man received a response e-mail from his son:

"Beloved father, please don't touch the garden. That is where I have hidden 'the THING.' Make sure you don't tell anyone. I love you, too, your son Abdullah. "

At the middle of the night the FBI visited the house of the old man and took the whole garden apart, searching every inch. But they couldn't find anything. Disappointed, they left the house.

The next day, the old man received another e-mail from his son:

"Beloved father, I hope the garden is dug up by now and you can plant your potatoes. That is all I could do for you from here. Your loving son, Abdullah."

Importance of parents according to Islam

A good reminder. Source: www.islamfortoday.com

I only modified the old and British English used in the article.


Islamic teachings on the Importance of Parents
Say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honor. - Quran 17:23

In Islam it is obligatory for us to show kindness, respect, and obedience to our parents. The position of parents, and the mutual obligations and responsibilities, have been addressed in Islam in great detail. In fact kindness and obedience is so strongly emphasized that God has linked showing gratitude to one's parents with showing gratitude to God -

And We have enjoined on man (to be good) to his parents: in travail upon travail did his mother bear him, and in years twain was his weaning: (hear the command), "Show gratitude to Me and to your parents: to Me is (your final) Goal. (31:14)

Sadly we are living in a time where children speaking disrespectfully to their parents and about their parents, is the norm rather than the exception. However Islam places great emphasis on respectful and considerate behavior to even our enemies, so to not uphold the obligations laid down by God to our parents is actually one of the major sins.

In the Quran
Let's see what the Quran says about Parents. This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear God (2:02)

Treat parents with honor & speak to them graciously & with humility

Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and that you be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honor. And, out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say: My Lord! Bestow on them Your Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood. (17:23)

Be grateful to parents but do not obey them if they strive to make you associate things with God

...Be grateful to Me and to both your parents; to Me is the eventual coming. But if they strive to make you join in worship with Me things of which you have no knowledge, obey them not; yet bear them company in this life with justice (and consideration), and follow the way of those who turn to Me (in love): in the end the return of you all is to Me, then will I inform you of what you did (31:15)

These verses make it clear that we must honor our parents, appreciate their sacrifices and efforts for us, and do our best for them. This is required regardless of whether they are Muslims or not.

Be good to parents and everyone else who you meet

Serve God, and join not any partners with Him; and do good- to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbours who are near, neighbours who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet), and what your right hands possess: For God loves not the arrogant, the vainglorious;- (4:36)

If the Quran tells us to be good to a stranger how can we even think of disrespecting our parents?

Hadiths (sayings of the Prophet)
Let's see what Prophet Muhammad said about parents in the authentic Hadiths. Whatsoever the Prophet gives you, take it and whatsoever he forbids you, refrain from it. - Quran 59:7

Disobedience to parents is a major sin

Anas narrated from Prophet Muhammad about the major sins. He (Mohammed) observed: Associating anyone with God, disobedience to parents, killing a person and false utterance. (Muslim)

One of the dearest deeds to God is being good & dutiful to parents

Narrated 'Abdullah: I asked the Prophet "Which deed is the dearest to God?" He replied, "To offer the prayers at their early stated fixed times." I asked, "What is the next (in goodness)?" He replied, "To be good and dutiful to your parents"...(Bukhari)

Being dutiful to parents is one of the keys to enter Paradise

Abu Huraira reported Prophet Muhammad as saying: Let him be humbled into dust; let him be humbled into dust. It was said: God's Messenger, who is he? He said: He who sees either of his parents during their old age or he sees both of them, but he does not enter Paradise (because he has been undutiful to them). (Muslim)

Acts of kindness we can do for our parents after their death

While we were with Prophet Muhammad of God . A man of Banu Salmah came to Him and said: Apostle of God is there any kindness left that I can do to my parents after their death? He replied: Yes, you can invoke blessings on them, forgiveness for them, carry out their final instructions after their death, join ties of relationship which are dependent on them, and honour their friends. (Abu Dawood)

The High Status given to Mothers

A man came to the Prophet and asked him for permission to join a military expedition. The Prophet asked him if he had a mother, and when he replied that he had, he said, "Stay with her, for Paradise is at her feet." (Ahmad)


Sometimes we may take our parents for granted and overlook their importance. As Muslims we should constantly be alert to guard ourselves from sins, however, are we guarding ourselves from one of the biggest major sins? Are we honoring and respecting our parents as per their right? Or are we neglecting one of the deeds most dearest to God? Right now the choice is ours!

We ask God the Most High, the All-Powerful, to teach us that which will benefit us, and to benefit us by that which we learn.

= Peace and Blessings of God be upon him.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What is that? (A must watch)

Want to avoid FBI abuse? Here is what a young Muslim man should steer clear of

In a new twist in the ongoing saga of the FBI's disregard for the civil rights of American Muslims, media reports have revealed that the FBI was monitoring and gathering personal information about hundreds of young Muslim men at local gyms.

Man says he ID'd Middle Easterners at gyms for FBI (OC Register)
FBI monitored members of O.C. mosques at gyms, alleged informant says (LA Times)

I know working out sounds very dangerous. After all, why would young Muslim men want to be healthy or, even worse, build muscles if it were not to train for terrorism?

I feel so much safer knowing that my tax money is wisely being spent by the FBI agents who hire convicted felons to help us protect our national security by watching over those suspicious looking dark and hairy young American Muslim men running on treadmills.

We can all sleep better knowing that the FBI's vigilance extends to more than just those shadowy so-called "fitness" centers, which we all know are in reality nothing but a secret meeting place for criminals.

The FBI's (and the informants’) long list of suspicious activities that are being possibly monitored includes, but is not limited to the following. (It is important to note that such activities are not deemed suspicious except when undertaken by a young Muslim male; otehrwise, they become legitimate and normal activities. As one FBI agent "wisely" reminded Monteilh (the informant) when Monteilh raised his concerns that such action amounted to racial profiling, "little white old ladies didn't slam planes into buildings." Wow! What fairness and professionalism.

Ok, ok, here is the list of “suspicious” behavior that will possibly trigger monitoring by the FBI:

- Young Muslim men praying at mosques.

- Young Muslim men growing beards

- Young Muslim men enjoying a fun game of paintball

- Young Muslim men who join the NRA or go hunting

- Young Muslim men who travel

- Young Muslim men who go camping

- Young Muslim men who have "Muslim sounding" names

- Young Muslim men who specifically have the name Osama, Usama, Ousama, or even Obama (after all, the FBI can't be careful enough)

- Young Muslim men who were born in a country that is hard for the informant to pronounce

- Young Muslim men who appear religious (this is something terrorists are known for)

- Young Muslim men who appear non-religious (this is something undercover terrorists are known for)

- Young Muslim men who hold radical political views such as opposing the invasion of Iraq, the Israeli brutal occupation of Palestine, or the use of torture.

- Young Muslim men who support "dangerous" and "subversive" civil rights activists or organizations such as Dr. M.L. King, Malcolm X, Cesar Chavez, NAACP, CAIR, ACLU or the National Lawyers Guild

- Young Muslim men who aspire to become pilots, flight attendants, airport workers, FBI agents, government workers, lawyers, judges, or anything that might allow them to "infiltrate" our country and appear to be regular Americans

There is no doubt that many in the FBI take their job of upholding the Constitution and protecting the country seriously. I have personally met and worked with many such FBI officials. Unfortunately, the agency seems to have been hijacked by individuals who are either driven by ideological right-wing politics and a goal of undermining President Obama's commitment to end the Bush years of fear and abuse, are influenced by their anti-Muslim bigotry, or are enjoying a lot of free time and, apparently, great job security.

Sadly, as seemingly amusing and surreal as this might sound, in reality, for the tens of thousands of American Muslims whose lives are regularly disturbed by unwarranted harassment, surveillance, and interrogation, the FBI's practice of religious profiling is a violation, intimidation, and humiliation that no law-abiding American should have to endure.

We live in a country of laws, a country with a great constitution that guarantees liberty and justice for all – yes, including American Muslims. No one is above the law, including the FBI.

Man says he ID'd Middle Easterners at gyms for FBI

Tuesday, April 28, 2009
The Orange County Register

An Irvine man who claims to have worked as an FBI informant said he was asked by agents to identify photos of Middle Eastern men who worked out at Orange County gyms as part of an effort to identify terrorist cells in the U.S.

Craig Monteilh said he worked as an informant from July 2006 to October 2007. He said he identified hundreds of Middle Eastern men in pictures that appeared to be taken from surveillance footage from several O.C gyms. He said agents asked him to act as a "magnet" for members of the Muslim community - work out with them, and provide information, such as names and telephone numbers, to the FBI.

Agents were interested only in young Middle Eastern men, Monteilh said, and when a picture was identified as someone that was not, "they (pictures) were discarded," he said.

Officials at the FBI declined to address on specific allegations, saying they could not comment on investigative techniques or ongoing investigations, but said suggestions that the agency may be racially profiling an ethnic group were absurd and unfair.

"To suggest that the FBI targets individuals based on their ethnicity is beyond absurd, and can unfairly damage the reputation of a community," said Laura Eimiller, spokeswoman for the FBI. "Investigations are structured to protect the civil liberties of all, and are conducted with strict adherence to the Constitution."


Monteilh, 46, in February identified himself as an informant who used the name Farouk al-Aziz to infiltrate local mosques. He came forward shortly after a Tustin man was arrested on immigration-fraud charges – a man authorities claim lied about links to terrorist organizations and a brother-in-law suspected of being Osama bin Laden's security coordinator.

In a bail hearing for Ahmadullah Sais Niazi, Special Agent Thomas J. Ropel III said Niazi was recorded by an informant talking about blowing up buildings and taking up jihad. Ropel did not identify the informant.

Monteilh said he began identifying young men in pictures in November 2006 and continued to meet with agents, once a week for about nine months, identifying men in pictures from several gyms, particularly those in Irvine.

"Every week, twice a week sometimes, I'd be handed 80 to 120 photos of specifically Middle Eastern-looking men," Monteilh said. He would then write the name of the men in the back of the pictures, and hand over telephone numbers if he obtained them.

Monteilh, who worked as a fitness consultant, has been arrested for fraud and grand theft, including a case where he was convicted of conning two women out of more than $157,000.He said the FBI asked him to use his background as a trainer in local gyms to workout with Muslim men and provide information.

"I was told there were terrorist cells in Orange County and they were going to do everything possible to (identify) these terrorist cells," Monteilh said.


For months, members of Orange County's Muslim community have been calling into question the FBI's tactics. During a demonstration in May 2007, a confrontation between a student at UC Irvine and a FBI agent inside a car with tinted windows sparked several questions of whether the FBI was monitoring Muslim students.

Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the Council on Islamic American Relations, said he wouldn't be surprised if Monteilh's allegations of surveillance in OC gyms were true.

"Any normal activity, conducted by others, once it is conducted by Muslims, it's labeled suspicious," Ayloush said. "Many Muslims were questioned about suspicious activity, but the fact they were Muslim is what rendered these activities suspicious."

Having to circle an airport because of missing a terminal, taking pictures of tourist areas, hunting, paint ball, or "building muscles," are misconstrued as suspicious when conducted by someone who appears to be Middle Eastern, Ayloush said.

Monteilh said he had brought up concerns about racial profiling while he identified men in photos, but was told by one agent that, "little white old ladies didn't slam planes into buildings."

Adam Krowlikowsky, an attorney representing Monteilh, said he and his client also planned to file lawsuit against the agency for, "having suffered as a result of a violation of his rights as an individual and services he provided to the agency."

No written agreement was made between the FBI and Monteilh, the attorney said, but his client could be entitled to up to $10 million, he said. He declined to comment on whether he or Monteilh had been in contact with FBI officials regarding the claim.

Monteilh said he was paid between $6,000 and $11,200 a month by the FBI to work as an informant and was promised lump sump payment at the end of his work. He also said a 2008 conviction of grand theft was related to work he was conducting as an informant.

Contact the writer: shernandez@ocregister.com or 949-454-7361

FBI monitored members of O.C. mosques at gyms, alleged informant says

By Scott Glover
April 27, 2009
Los Angeles Times

As part of their anti-terrorism efforts, FBI agents monitored popular gyms throughout Orange County to gather intelligence on members of several local mosques, according to a man who claims to have been a key informant in the operation.

Sal Hernandez, director of the FBI's Los Angeles office, declined comment on the matter Monday. Another law enforcement source, however, confirmed that the surveillance occurred, but emphasized that it was a narrowly focused operation targeting people whom the informant had already implicated in alleged crimes.

The informant is Craig Monteilh, who said he posed as a Muslim convert at the request of the FBI to gather intelligence that might aid anti-terrorism investigators.

Monteilh, a muscular man with a background as a personal trainer, said he was instructed to lure mosque members to work out with him at local gyms. FBI agents, he said, later would obtain security camera footage from the gyms and ask him to identify the people on the tapes and to provide additional information about them. He said he was told that the agents then conducted background checks on the men, looking for anything that could be used to pressure them to become informants.

Disclosures of the FBI's tactics have angered some leaders in the Muslim community in Orange County who saw it as a betrayal of their efforts to assist law enforcement after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The issue has reverberated nationwide.

Last week, a coalition of the nation's largest Muslim organizations, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Islamic Society of North America, issued a statement demanding that the Obama administration address FBI actions, including what they described as the "infiltration of mosques," the use of "agent provocateurs to trap unsuspecting Muslim youth" and the "deliberate vilification" of the council.

Hussam Ayloush, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Anaheim, said he viewed the most recent disclosure as a form of religious profiling that "reflects a deeply rooted mind-set that was promoted by the Bush Administration." "I'm not surprised," he said. "It confirms our worst fears."

FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said, "While the FBI does not comment on investigative techniques, it's absurd to suggest that FBI agents are randomly targeting Middle Eastern men or any other ethnic group for investigation."

Monteilh, 46, is a twice convicted felon who says he was recruited by the FBI in 2006 to go undercover in the Islamic Center of Irvine, where he said he pretended to be Farouk Al-Aziz, a Syrian-French American searching for his Islamic roots. He says he surreptitiously recorded conversations with members of several mosques and provided the recordings to the FBI.

Though FBI officials have declined to discuss Monteilh's alleged role in any investigation, a law enforcement source confirmed that he worked as an informant.

Monteilh (whose name is pronounced Mahn-Tay) said the FBI stopped using him as an informant in 2007 when a supervisor questioned his credibility. He has since filed a legal claim against the bureau, accusing officials of reneging on promises to pay him $100,000 and place him in a witness protection program.

In several recent interviews with The Times, the 6-foot-2, 260-pound Monteilh said he was encouraged to invite members of several mosques to join him for workouts at various fitness centers in Irvine, Tustin, Laguna Niguel and Costa Mesa. Monteilh said he would routinely lead between eight and 15 men in a regimen of weightlifting and cardiovascular exercise. He said a car key operating as an electronic recording device was capturing whatever he and the men talked about.

About a month after the workouts began, Monteilh said one his "handlers" at the FBI started showing him photos that he was told were still shots taken by video surveillance cameras at the gyms. He said the agent would typically show him between 75 and 100 photos per meeting, which he said were usually at various Starbucks in Orange County.

Monteilh identified the agent by name, but his identity is being withheld by The Times at the request of an FBI official who cited his involvement in covert activities unrelated to the case that Monteilh said he was involved in.

Monteilh said the agent would ask him to write down the name of the person in each photo, the mosque they attend, their nationality and the names of their associates. He estimated that he identified several hundred men, the majority of them between the ages of 18 and 50. Many were professionals, including doctors and lawyers, he said. Most were students.

Monteilh said he broached the topic of racial profiling, but was rebuffed.

"White little old ladies aren't blowing up buildings and planes," Monteilh quoted one agent as saying. "We're looking at these people based on the fact that there's a terrorist threat in the Islamic community . . . there's no other way."

He said the project was working so well that his handlers were given clearance to use him to open a gym that would cater to men in the Islamic community. It was supposed to have a prayer room next to the workout area and the entire place was going to be wired for audio and video surveillance, Monteilh said. He said the project was scrapped after his cover was blown...

Monteilh was reported to the FBI in June 2007 after members of the Islamic Center of Irvine alleged that he was promoting terrorist plots and trying to recruit others to join him. Monteilh denies being a terrorist and said anything he said or did at the mosque was in his capacity as an informant for the FBI. He said he was given permission by authorities to engage in terrorist rhetoric, planning and "pretty much anything short of an actual attack" as part of his assignment.


Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Creepy! The Truth about Facebook!

If true, then that puts a whole new meaning to the FB in FaceBook...
Did you get it? FB as in FBI... Hmmm...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Court asks FBI for Muslim surveillance files


SANTA ANA – The widening rift between the FBI and the Islamic community has drawn the American Civil Liberties Union into the fray, with the organization's lawyers declaring victory in their efforts to force the release of government surveillance records on Southern California Muslims.

A federal district court judge Monday gave the FBI 30 days to make available for review 48 pages of surveillance memos pertaining to Southern California Muslim organizations that had previously been released only in heavily redacted form, 47 pages of previously withheld memos, and FBI files on the Council of American Islamic Relations and Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the group's Southern Californian Chapter, ACLU staff attorney Jennie Pasquarella said.

Ayloush and Shakeel Syed, the executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, joined Pasquarella in the courtyard of the federal courthouse in Santa Ana minutes after the judge's ruling, declaring the decision a victory for Muslim organizations.

"We are exercising our first amendment rights, and we are running out of patience," Syed said.

FBI representatives forwarded requests for comment to Department of Justice officials, who could not be immediately reached for comment. Federal officials have previously denied charges by several national Islamic organizations that the government has taken part in "fishing expeditions" by sending informants to ensnare Muslims at area Mosques.

A coalition of Islamic organizations known as the American Muslim Taskforce last month threatened to cut ties with the FBI, accusing the agency of using "McCarthy-era tactics."

The announcement came on the heels of Irvine resident Craig Monteilh's public admission that he spent more than a year pretending to embrace Islam at various local mosques as part of an FBI-backed effort to uncover terrorist threats.

Monteilh claimed his work played a key role in the arrest of Ahmadullah Niazi, a Tustin-resident and member of the Islamic Center of Irvine, on several immigration-fraud charges.

But Islamic leaders claim the FBI violated the sanctity of the Islamic religion by sending in Monteilh, a felon who previously served a prison term for conning two women out of more than $150,000.

"While we were led to believe we were partners, we learned we were also under surveillance," Syed said.

The FBI previously declined to comment on the specific allegations brought by the Islamic groups, but pledged to continue outreach efforts with the Muslim community and warned against "limiting honest dialogue, especially when complex issues are on the table."

Muslim leaders say the rift between the FBI and the larger Islamic community has also widened because of the agency's deteriorating relationship with the Council of American Islamic Relations.

In the months following the 911 attacks, the group's officials say they helped the FBI reach out to Muslims and with cultural sensitivity training.

But the group in 2007 came under fire when it was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a terrorist funding case against the Holy Land Foundation.

The FBI recently announced that it has ended its own formal partnership with the council, whose leaders have denied any terrorist links.

Ayloush said he hoped this week's court ruling could spark a "healing phase" between the Muslim community and the FBI.

"We're hoping this will begin the process of undoing this climate of fear," Ayloush said.

Contact the writer: 949-553-2911 or semery@ocregister.com

FBI Workers Accused Of Spying On Dressing Room

I guess there aren't enough Muslims or mosques in West Virginia to keep those two perverts busy??

For the record, I do not hold the whole agency responsible for the acts of those two agents.
Unlike some within the FBI, I do not practice guilt by association.


Two FBI workers are accused of using surveillance equipment to spy on teenage girls as they undressed and tried on prom gowns at a charity event at a West Virginia mall.

The FBI employees have been charged with conspiracy and committing criminal invasion of privacy. They were working in an FBI satellite control room at the mall when they positioned a camera on temporary changing rooms and zoomed in for at least 90 minutes on girls dressing for the Cinderella Project fashion show, Marion County Prosecutor Pat Wilson said Monday...

The Cinderella Project at the Middletown Mall in the north-central West Virginia town of Fairmont drew hundreds of girls from 10 high schools in five counties. Organizer Cynthia Woodyard said volunteers, donors and participants are angry.

"I can't even begin to put words around what I consider an unspeakable act, the misuse of surveillance by a branch of our government in a place we felt so secure," she said. "Never in a million years would we have thought something like this would happen. We're in shock."

...The FBI issued a brief statement, but refused to answer questions. The statement said the Office of Inspector General was investigating...

Read full story:

No amnesty for torturers


This Thursday, we will deliver our Special Prosecutor petitions to Attorney General Eric Holder. We will join with the ACLU and 185 other groups which oppose immunity for torturers.

Nearly 25,000 of our readers have signed our petition - but you have not. Could you sign right now so we can deliver your signature on Thursday? No Amnesty for Torturers:

Torture is utterly immoral and un-American. Despite Dick Cheney's lies, it produced absolutely no useful intelligence. In fact, it recruited terrorists responsible for at least half the U.S. deaths in Iraq. And it endangered every U.S. soldier who may be captured in the future.

And torture is absolutely illegal. The U.S. ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which prohibits torture and requires prosecution of torturers. In 1947, the U.S. prosecuted a Japanese officer for waterboarding. No lawyer can "legalize" what is illegal.

Congress must take the following actions:

1. Demand the appointment of a Special Prosecutor by Attorney General Eric Holder for torture, warrantless wiretapping, and other heinous crimes of the Bush Administration. (Thanks to Rep. Jerrold Nadler for leading the way!)

2. Prohibit the use of any taxpayer dollars to defend government officials who committed such crimes against lawsuits, or to pay for judgments against them.

3. Impeach Judge Jay Bybee, the torture memo author who serves on the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in California.

4. Protect human rights by restoring Habeas Corpus and the Fourth Amendment (search and seizure), including repeal of the Orwellian-named Protect America Act, U.S.A. Patriot Act, the FISA Amendments, and Military Commissions Act.

5. End secret government by prohibiting use of "State Secrets," "Sovereign Immunity" and "Signing Statements."

Sign our Petition: No Amnesty for Torturers

Through your patience and persistence, we are moving ever closer towards the restoration of the Constitution and the Rule of Law in the nation we love.

Thanks for all you do!

Bob Fertik

Jon Stewart: "We Don't Torture"

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Some influential Muslim groups question FBI's actions

From the Los Angeles Times

Revelations that the agency has been surveilling popular leaders and infiltrating mosques and schools has many organizations turning away from their post-9/11 cooperation.

By Paloma Esquivel
April 20, 2009

As they sipped tea and nibbled on dates, more than 100 men and women listened to a litany of speakers sounding the same message: The FBI is not your friend.

"We're here today to say our mosques are off limits," Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations for Greater Los Angeles, told the crowd last month at an Anaheim mosque.

"Our Koran is off limits," Ayloush said. "Our youth, who they try to radicalize, are off limits. Now is the time to tell them, 'We're not going to let this happen anymore.' "

Such strong words from a man who once was a vocal advocate of ties with federal law enforcement was yet one more signal that the fragile relationship between Muslim American groups and the FBI is being tested.

In the months and years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, FBI officials met privately with Muslim leaders, assuring them that a spate of hate crimes would be vigorously investigated and at the same time asking for help in the campaign against terrorism. Local leaders promised to encourage cooperation.

But even as relations warmed, a series of revelations -- including allegations that the FBI sent an informant into a mosque in Orange County, surveilled community leaders and sent an agent to UC Irvine -- caused some to begin questioning the FBI's real intentions.

Now, the leaders of several Muslim organizations say they feel betrayed. Because Orange County has been at the center of many of the revelations, local leaders have taken a lead in challenging the FBI, but the issues are resonating nationwide.

On Sunday, a coalition of the nation's largest Muslim organizations, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Islamic Society of North America, issued a statement demanding that the Obama administration address FBI actions, including what they describe as the "infiltration of mosques," the use of "agent provocateurs to trap unsuspecting Muslim youth" and the "deliberate vilification" of the council.

"It reached a level where we felt we had to do something," said Agha Saeed, chairman of the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections. "The FBI is doing things which are not healthy. They are creating divisions and conflict, creating a totally negative, Islamophobic image of Muslims in America."

Over the years, there's been a gradual erosion of trust between the groups and the FBI. Months ago, the agency told local leaders it was suspending relations with the council, one of the largest Muslim civil rights groups in the country.

Since then, things have unraveled rapidly. Like other Muslim communities in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, many in Orange County -- home to more than 100,000 Muslim Americans, dozens of mosques and several prominent Muslim community organizations -- worried about FBI investigations.

The FBI, in turn, believed terrorists were either trying to get to Southern California to carry out attacks or were already here. To gain intelligence and demystify the agency's operations, the FBI met with local leaders and formed a committee that met monthly.

"In the post-9/11 world, the Arab American and Muslim community became one of those places where we said, 'It's worth making the extra effort,' " said FBI spokesman John Miller, who is also in charge of the agency's national community outreach program.

Early on, Ayloush said the FBI was acting in good faith and working with the community as "partners rather than suspects."

But the delicate relationship soon began to fray.

In 2004, the FBI and immigration officials arrested the popular head of an Anaheim mosque; he was held on immigration-related charges for two years until a judge ordered his release pending deportation. In 2006, an FBI agent was quoted as telling a business group in Newport Beach that the agency was monitoring Muslims at local universities. A year later, UC Irvine students said an FBI agent conducting an investigation at the school assaulted a Muslim student with his car near the site of a demonstration.

On a national level, there was the disclosure that FBI agents had been secretly monitoring radiation levels at mosques in search of radioactive bombs. More troubling were news reports that Muslims had been asked to become informants or face deportation.

The breaking point came in February with the revelation that the FBI had sent an informant to an Irvine mosque to collect evidence of jihadist rhetoric and other allegedly extremist acts by a Tustin man who attended prayers there.

To some, the incidents added up to this conclusion: The government was targeting all Muslims. Miller strongly disputes that contention, saying that the agency does not go on "fishing expeditions."

"What we investigate is people," he said. "If we develop information on a person, that investigation may take us different places -- to their home, their place of business . . . and yes, if . . . they go to a mosque, the investigation may take us to the mosque. That is part of what we do."

The Council on American-Islamic Relations was named in 2007, along with hundreds of other organizations and individuals, as an unindicted co-conspirator in a case against the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation, which the government accused of funneling money to terrorists.

As a result, the FBI suspended relations with the council this year.

"That is not to suggest that anyone or everyone associated with CAIR has any kind of taint," Miller said, adding that "there are some issues we would like to know more about from the leaders at CAIR's headquarters."

But at the recent meeting at the Anaheim mosque, the tone was one of frustration and anger.

Speakers suggested that ordinary Muslim Americans need to protect themselves from overzealous FBI agents.

"You don't get brownie points for speaking to them," said Ameena Qazi, a lawyer for the council. "They don't go back to the office and check off your civic engagement or your patriotism. . . . We are a very open and hospitable community, but we shouldn't be naive."

Attendees applauded Qazi's statement, but it was a mea culpa that most moved them.

"We goofed up, guys," said Shakeel Syed, head of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California. "We brought them here. We brought them to our mosques, to our meetings. . . . We have to hold ourselves responsible. That's why it's so important to dig our heels into the ground and say we're not going to take this lying down, we're going to fight."

He got the loudest applause of the night.


MI Muslims describe FBI offers to act as informants

Gregg Krupa / The Detroit News

The FBI has come under fire from Muslim leaders in Metro Detroit who say the agency is threatening or coercing local residents into informing on people in their communities and mosques.

The prospective informants, their lawyers and community leaders said the federal agents identify themselves and tell them their immigration status could be blocked or revoked if they turn down FBI requests to report on activities of people who attend mosques.

"Cooperation will not be gained through the twisting of arms," said Imad Hamad, regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. "We have worked extensively with the FBI and others in the past, and certainly we would provide any information of a national security concern. But the issue now is this: Will they treat us as partners, or suspects, or both? We want to know."

Several Muslims agreed to talk to The Detroit News about their experiences, amid recent revelations about FBI activities. Those who say they were contacted to become informants express alarm at what they call intrusion in places of worship and private lives without reasonable cause. They say the federal initiative is bruising feelings and making Muslims fearful of cooperating with federal officials.

FBI officials say recruiting informants in the Muslim community is part of their work but add that agency rules strictly forbid unwarranted scrutiny, especially in houses of worship.

"We don't target mosques," said John Miller, an assistant FBI director. "We don't send people out on fishing expeditions. We investigate people ... and with probable cause to do so under the attorney general's guidelines."

Nevertheless, 44 Muslim groups nationally have asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the tactics after it was revealed in February that an informant in California had been attempting to entrap Muslims into terrorist activities.

Last week, the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, requesting an investigation of the complaints in Michigan.

"The people they approach are usually the most vulnerable," said immigration and civil rights lawyer Nabih Ayad of Canton. "They usually have immigration issues, trying to get a green card, trying to get citizenship." Ayad said dozens of his clients have asked for his advice after being approached.

Meanwhile, some local Muslims are willing to describe how federal agents approached them.

• As he waited on tables in a Middle Eastern restaurant in Dearborn, a recent immigrant with a pending citizenship application told his story. "First, they asked me about my status in the country, why I am here, and what work I do," said the man, who asked for anonymity because he doesn't want to jeopardize his citizenship efforts.

"They said, 'We want you to work with us, and we'll help you with your (immigration) status.'

" ... But I feel I cannot be spying on my mosque or my neighbors. That is not right. That is not American," he said. "But a threat to my country, to the United States? My goodness, me and my family would run to them to alert them.

"... Now, my citizenship seems like it is permanently on hold, on hold, forever," he said. "I constantly worry, and I feel I have no life since they approached me."

• An immigrant student said an FBI agent exchanged cordial e-mails before asking her to inform on members of the Muslim Student Association on her campus.

She called the first contacts "friendly and interesting," but said the agent mentioned the status of "international students" and asked her to inform on her fellow students.

"I never responded to that request," she said. "I was offended and kind of mad, and I never got back to him."

• Two days after he was charged with a minor public nuisance violation, another recent immigrant with a pending application for citizenship said an FBI agent contacted him to suggest that if he became an informant the charge would "go away." The man said he would rather pay the fine and have a misdemeanor on his record than "spy" on his community.

Local Muslim and Arab leaders say aggressive tactics used by federal agents place at risk the carefully cultivated cooperation between their communities and law enforcement, which many on both sides consider essential to preserving national security.

Miller, of the FBI, said he could not comment on the specific circumstances of the Muslims who talked to The Detroit News because he did not know their names or the details of the investigations.

"I can tell you that we don't approach people like that unless there is a good reason, so I can assume there was," he said.

But Miller said he, too, is concerned about the relationship between American Muslims and law enforcement.

Officials of offices of the Department of Homeland Security did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Muslim leaders say they have no problem with anyone entering mosques and conducting investigations.

"But we cannot tolerate attempts to have our own community members spy on community members or agent provocateurs sent into mosques to entice people," said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations in Michigan.

gkrupa@detnews.com (313) 222-2359

Friday, April 17, 2009

Michigan Islamic Group Says FBI Trying to Recruit Spies

L.A.-based American-Islamic relations group asks for Sec. of State's help

Also read:

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


L.A.-based American-Islamic relations group asks for Sec. of State's help

Desert Sun wire services

A coalition of Muslim, interfaith and civil rights groups sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today asking that she help a Southland man locked up in the United Arab Emirates on suspicion of promoting terrorism.

Naji Hamdan, 42, lived in Southern California for more than two decades and has been a well-respected community leader, activist and father of three children, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations Greater Los Angeles Area Chapter.

According to the Washington Post, Hamdan lived in the Los Angeles area, where he had gone to school, owned a successful auto-parts business and become a U.S. citizen. But last July, he was summoned to the U.S. Embassy in the Dubai to answer questions from FBI agents who had come from Los Angeles, and six weeks later he was taken prisoner by UAE authorities.

The Post reported he had been monitored by the FBI since the 1980s, when he studied aviation engineering at Northrop-Rice University and with other Muslim students set aside a dorm room as a mosque. The mosque was later moved to downtown Hawthorne, where Hamdan often presided during Ramadan services.

He was approached by the FBI in December 1999 in connection with the ``millennium plot'' that targeted Los Angeles International Airport, and surveillance ramped up after 9/11, the Post reported. He was also audited twice by the IRS and routinely pulled aside for extra questioning at airports.

In August 2006, Hamdan and his family moved to Dubai. Friends told the Post he made the move not only because of the constant monitoring of his activities, but also because of drugs and gangs in Hawthorne schools.

In a sworn statement to a U.S. consular official in the UAE, Hamdan said he was kicked, made to sit in an electric chair with threats that he might be electrocuted, punched and slapped, blindfolded and beat with a large stick and coerced to sign a confession, which he did to stop the torture, according to CAIR.

Ahilan Arulanantham of the American Civil Liberties Union, who is representing Hamdan through his brother and wife, who now lives in Lebanon with their two children, told the Post, ``this is torture by proxy.'' He said the UAE had shown no interest in Hamdan before arresting him, and that he was tortured ``at the behest'' of the U.S. government.

In a statement, the FBI said it does not ask other governments to arrest people on its behalf, but in court papers it did not deny the involvement of any U.S. agency in Hamdan's detention, according to the Post.

``In terrorism matters, we routinely work with foreign counterparts,'' FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said in a statement.

The letter sent to Clinton stated, in part, ``Mr. Hamdan, like every other American, has the right to the protection of his government from human rights abuses inflicted by any group or state entity. We cannot stress enough the urgency of Mr. Hamdan's situation and request that the State Department take immediate steps to restore Mr. Hamdan's basic human rights without delay.''

The letter was signed by CAIR, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, National Lawyers Guild Los Angeles, Muslim American Society's MAS Freedom, the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, Interfaith Communities United for Justice & Peace, the Islamic Center of Hawthorne, and Switzerland-based Alkarama (Dignity) for Human Rights.

"We are extremely concerned about the allegations of torture and lack of due process in Mr. Hamdan's case,'' said CAIR-LA staff attorney Ameena Qazi. "We are also concerned about possible U.S. government agency involvement in Mr. Hamdan's detention and his trial in UAE. We hope the new administration will make it an urgent priority to correct the many civil rights abuses against the Muslim community, which were a hallmark of the previous administration.''

The Obama-Chavez handshake: the sign of differents times

Right-wing nuts must be going crazier (if that is possible). Warmongers must be disappointed. Why?

Our President shook the hand of President Chavez. Not only that, but they actually exchanged smiles.

To think that only a few months or years ago, we were accused of trying to orchestrate a couple of coups in Venezuela to remove (or possibly assassinate) its democraticaly-elected president. (well it would not be the first time we - our CIA in specific - overthrow and undermine the results of democratic elections when they bring people who want to serve their people rather than our corporations or policies)

It is certainly a sign of different times when our President actually respects leaders of other countries; when our president says something that makes sense (something other than smoke them out; or you are either with us or with the terrorists).

I and many other Americans got really tired of the cowboy approach to international conflicts and disagreements. Such an approach might work in a Crawford Ranch while herding cows, neo-cons, Blair and other lapdogs, but it does not work with smart and self-respecting leaders and people.

A handshake, a smile, respect, intelligence, and genuine interest in dialogue can make a whole lot of difference in promoting peace and stability in our world.

President Obama, my family and I are proud we voted for you.


AP story

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad – Presidents Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez have met for the first time, shaking hands as the Summit of the Americas gets under way in Trinidad and Tobago.

Photos released by the Venezuelan government show the two smiling and Obama touching Chavez on the shoulder.

The Venezuelan presidency says Obama initiated the handshake. It quotes Chavez as telling Obama he hopes for better relations between their nations.

Chavez also reportedly said Friday: "With this same hand I greeted Bush eight years ago. I want to be your friend."

As recently as last week, Chavez expressed a desire to "reset" relations with Washington.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Is criticism of Zionism and Israel equivalent to anti-Semitism?

The new documentary "Defamation" (see post about it) triggered a question on my mind.
Is criticism of Zionism and Israel equivalent to anti-Semitism?

Until recently, the Israel Lobby  propaganda groups such as the ADL, AJC, the Wiesenthal Center, AIPAC, ZOA and others had our country (and most of the world) convinced that any legitimate criticism of Israeli actions or policies is a clear form of anti-Semitism that must be demonized and stopped. Similarly, they have equated any criticism of Zionism - the political ideology on which Israel justified its ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and the theft of their land - with anti-Semitism. The objective was to equate Israel and Zionism with the sanctity of Judaism and vice versa; therefore, rendering it disgraceful or at least controversial to debate Israeli policies or Zionism.

The intellectual (and sometimes physical, by groups such as JDL) terrorism exerted by Israel lobby groups and their well-funded attack dogs (Pipes, Emerson, Horowitz, “JDL-fan” Kaufman, Gaffney and others) contributed to a climate of fear and intimidation for many activists, academics, religious leaders, politicians and media professionals who have contemplated addressing what they clearly concluded to be repressive, racist, illegal, and dangerous behavior by a state that is considered to be closely allied and strongly supported – financially, politically and militarily – by our country. Many have come to the conclusion that the perception of our country as an accomplice in Israel’s war crimes and brutal occupation is creating a major public relations and political nightmare for us.

The hypocrisy this climate of fear allows is astounding. How can our government demand that Iran abandon its nuclear ambitions when Israel, as the only nuclear country in the Middle East, has a reported arsenal of 240 nuclear warheads?

How can we reasonably pressure Egypt, Syria and other Arab countries to respect the human rights of their citizens (and rightly so) when our closest “ally” every day violates the rights of the Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories?

How can the world believe our claims about promoting freedom and democracy when our spoiled “friend,” Israel, has been controlling the lives (and certainly the deaths) of Palestinians and denying them the right to have their own country on their own ancestors’ land?

How can we convince the Muslim world to isolate and reject extremism when we support, fund, and approve of the worst brand of religious and political extremism in the government of Israel?

Our country stands for some of the greatest values and most noble of hopes. It is not fair for us to be tainted by (and often hated because of) the behavior of the State of Israel.

The election of President Obama represents a fresh opportunity to push a new agenda that can genuinely bring a just and lasting peace to the people of that region, promote human rights and democracy, and rebuild America’s credibility and stature among all people of the world.

For this to happen, it must become acceptable for us in America to discuss, analyze and criticize the policies and actions of Israel as is commonly done in Israel by Israelis themselves.

It is not acceptable for the Israel lobby propaganda machine to label President Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Professor Norman Finkelstein (who is Jewish himself) and many others as anti-Semites in order to silence their criticisms. An open debate on all legitimate political issues, including Israel, is the first step toward building support among all peace-seeking people for policies and attitudes that advance justice, peace, and mutual understanding among all people.

At the same time, we must all be vigilant to challenge and reject anyone who espouses racism, anti-Semitism or Islamophobia and tries to claim those twisted views in the name of legitimate political discourse. I truly believe that we are intelligent enough to be able to sort out the difference between people.

Therefore, the answer to the question, “Is criticism of Zionism and Israel equivalent to anti-Semitism?” is a clear “No.”

Here are a few previous blog posts that I published in relation to this topic:

Message to Muslims and Jews: Political Debate, Yes. Bigotry, No

Dissenting at your own risk

Ayloush comments on ADL's smear tactics

Denying the Holocaust is immoral and un-Islamic

Rosa Brooks: Criticize Israel? You're an Anti-Semite!

"Defamation" - A new Israeli documentary on anti-Zionism, antisemitism and the Arab-Israeli conflict

Turning His Lens on the ADL
Director Yoav Shamir on Courting Controversy on Camera

The Forward Newspaper
By Nathan Burstein
Published April 14, 2009

Controversy isn’t new terrain for Yoav Shamir. And controversy is the likely response to “Defamation,” his new documentary focused on anti-Zionism, antisemitism and the Arab-Israeli conflict, among other lightning rods. The Anti-Defamation League and its director, Abraham Foxman, figure prominently in the film, as do “Holocaust Industry” author Norman Finkelstein and a group of Israeli teens taking a school trip to the Nazi death camps.

The 38-year-old Shamir, who appears briefly on camera and narrates the film, ricochets among his native Tel Aviv, the United States and Eastern Europe...

First screened last February at the Berlin International Film Festival, “Defamation” arrives in New York in late April at the Tribeca Film Festival, and will open Tel Aviv’s DocAviv documentary festival in early May. “Defamation” joins such earlier Shamir films as “Checkpoint” (2003), about Israeli soldiers’ interactions with Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, and “Flipping Out” (2008), about Israeli solders’ drug-fueled misadventures in India following their army service. “5 Days” (2005), the documentary that inspired the antisemitism accusation, generated anger of a different sort — with organizers of Scotland’s Edinburgh International Film Festival warning Shamir not to attend a 2006 screening for fear of violence by anti-Israel protesters. (He attended without incident, under added security.)

Shamir recently spoke with writer Nathan Burstein, a frequent contributor to the Forward, about “Defamation.”

Nathan Burstein: Some people might be surprised by your assertion that you never seriously considered the term “antisemite” until it was used against you.

Yoav Shamir: What I’m getting at is that I never felt antisemitism. I was never a victim of antisemitism, and I would think that probably 99% of Israelis, if you asked them, would tell you the same thing. … If a Palestinian upsets me, I don’t think it has anything to do with the fact that I’m Jewish, that I hold the Jewish religion. It’s because either I took his land, or, if it’s an Arab-Israeli, it’s some kind of conflict which happens when you have two communities coming from different backgrounds and values living in the same place...

The film doesn’t paint a very flattering portrait of the organization or of Foxman. Have they seen the film yet?

They haven’t seen the film yet — they’ll see it now at the Tribeca Film Festival. [Regarding how they come across], that is your interpretation. Some people will see it differently...

You argue quite reasonably that anti-Zionism is not always antisemitism and that criticism of Israel can be legitimate. Do you see times when anti-Zionism does cross over into antisemitism?

There are many, many gray areas. Obviously there are going to be people who will have antisemitic tendencies, and they will express them by being anti-Zionist. They are part of the story. But the film is not really about that; it’s mostly about what we as Israelis and Jews make of this experience. How do we view ourselves, how we want to define ourselves...

You take a fairly negative view of March of the Living programs and trips by Israeli high school students and soldiers to visit the Nazi death camps. What do you think would be a more appropriate way for Israelis and other Jews to learn about the Holocaust?

[A]s I see it, in many ways, Israelis and Jews look at antisemitism as something different from racism — as a kind of almost mystical phenomenon that goes along with us for 2,000 years and that almost [has not changed]. For me, that is a bad understanding of history. It’s a negative way to look at and interpret the world. Obviously, the Holocaust is something that should be learned, and the Arab world is the biggest example of how stupid it is to be ignorant about such an important event in human history. But how you use this and how you navigate your life from now on is a different issue. If Israel and Jewish people see this as a colossal, demonic thing that happened only to us, that makes any other suffering seem irrelevant, [which] is the wrong lesson...

The film’s trailer is below.

Monday, April 13, 2009

So what would an Israeli or an Arab do if an insect falls in a cup of coffee?

After posting my earlier blog post, several people told me that they did not immediately read it because they thought it was some scientific article, judging by the original title.

So I decided to add the words "an Israeli and an Arab" to make sure people get the joke.
Yes, I am a trained engineer, but I am not the one to write boring scientific articles, especially not on my personal blog. :)

So now that you know what the joke is all about, go ahead and read it:

What happens if an insect falls in a cup of coffee?

Friday, April 10, 2009

What happens if an insect falls in a cup of coffee?

Here is a modified version of a joke I received today. I had to share.


What happens if an insect falls in a cup of coffee?

The British will throw the cup into the street and leave the coffee shop for good.

The American will get the insect out and drink the coffee.

The Chinese will eat the insect and drink the coffee.

The French will order a new cup, refuse to pay the bill, but will still drink the first cup (and then brag forever about the free 2 cups of coffee he got that day)

The Arab will probably not even notice it since he is used to it from being at Arab coffee shops

The Israeli will:

(1) Sell the coffee to the American and the insect to the Chinese.

(2) Cry on all media channels that he feels insecure and threatened.

(3) Accuse the Palestinians, Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria, Iran and the Islamic world of using germ-weapons.

(4) Keep on crying about the shop owner being anti-Israel and a pro-Palestinian terrorist sympathizer.

(5) Ask the Palestinian President to stop planting insects in the cups of coffee.

(6) Re-occupy the West Bank, Gaza Strip, build a "museum of tolerance" on top of Muslim cemeteries to educate them about tolerance, and ban Muslim males from praying at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem to ensure that no insects are secretly collected for such illegal use.

(7) Demolish houses, confiscate lands, cut water and electricity from Palestinian houses and randomly detain Palestinians without charges, enforce a complete siege, install an apartheid wall, set-up check points to search and humiliate every Palestinian, and throw illegal White Phosphorous bombs on Palestinian neighborhoods to teach them a lesson (oh wait, they already do all of that)

(8) Ask the United States Congress for urgent military support and a loan of one million dollars (which never gets paid) in order to buy a new cup of coffee and to treat all those Israelis shocked by this incident... (of course, our Congress will gladly indulge)

(9) Ask the United Nations to punish the coffee-shop owner by making him offer free coffee to him till the end of the century.

(10) Last but not least, accuse the whole world to be standing still, not even sympathizing with the Israeli Nation, and then, in protest, withdraw from the World Conference on Racism in Durban.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Spain marks anniversary of Muslim exodus with "discomfort"


Madrid - Spain is marking the 400th anniversary of the expulsion of some 300,000 Moriscos - Muslim converts to Christianity - in what is being described as an early precedent for European operations of ethnic cleansing.

The anniversary on Thursday of the expulsion order, which was signed on April 9, 1609, follows a meeting in Istanbul of the United Nations' Alliance of Civilizations project, a brainchild of the Spanish and Turkish prime ministers, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Official commemorations expressing regret for the expulsion of the Moriscos would be in line with the Alliance of Civilizations, which seeks to increase understanding between the West and the Muslim world, novelist Jose Manuel Fajardo wrote recently.

Some events, including conferences, exhibitions and book launches, are indeed being organized.

On the whole, however, 'official and academic Spain has withdrawn into the fortress of a cautious silence, which reveals its obvious discomfort,' novelist Juan Goytisolo observed.

Spain's Muslim history began in the 8th century with the arrival of conquerors, who became known as Moors, from North Africa and Arabia.

The Moors ruled parts of the Iberian Peninsula for eight centuries, bringing cultural advances and living in a relative peace with the local Christians and Jews for much of the time.

The so-called Christian reconquest of Spain was in fact a kind of civil war, because many of the Muslims of al-Andalus - as Moorish Spain was known - were by then of local origin, Moroccan expert Said Jedidi pointed out.

The reconquest was completed in 1492, when the last Moorish bastion, Granada, fell to Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella.

That same year, Jews who refused to convert to Christianity were ordered to leave Spain, but the agreed conditions of Granada's surrender initially guaranteed Muslims the practice of their faith and customs.

However, forced conversions to Christianity soon followed around the country, along with orders to abandon the Arab language, names or dress.

Many of the nominal Christians nevertheless persisted in their Muslim ways, defying attempts to create a homogenous state. There were doubts about their loyalty to the crown, and the Inquisition persecuted them.

In 1609, at a moment when a politically and economically weakened Philip III needed a victory over an internal enemy, his regime decided to expel the Moriscos from the kingdom.

From September onwards, the Spaniards of Muslim origin began to be shipped to North Africa in a well-oiled operation.

The expulsion, which lasted from 1609 to 1614, was 'the first European precedent of the... ethnic cleansings of the last century,' Goytisolo writes.

It took place in 'brutal conditions,' including killings of people who did not want to leave, explained the renowned Spanish novelist, who lives in the Moroccan city of Marrakech.

The majority of the Moriscos settled in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, where their descendants still take pride in their 'Andalusian' heritage.

Traces of the common heritage are visible not only in North Africa, but also in Spain, from architecture and music to cooking and crafts. The Spanish language has thousands of words of Arab origin.

However, an 'official one-dimensional version' of the Spanish identity was 'imposed' for centuries, equating Spanishness with being Catholic and conservative, Fajardo wrote.

Today, Spain's Moorish past is often used for ideological purposes, ranging from al-Qaeda calls for a Muslim reconquest of al- Andalus to visions of Moorish Spain as an idyllic paradise of multiculturalism.

A movement involving some Moroccan historians, Spanish and international Muslim groups wants to Spain to apologize for the expulsion of the Moriscos, and to make some gesture of compensation.

Many historians now concede that the forced conversions and the expulsion signified a major cultural and economic loss for Spain. An official recognition of that loss is, however, not on the government's agenda.

TX Republican says Asians should change their names

Not sure if I should laugh or cry! It is too funny to be real, but sadly such ignorance is live and well in our country. For sure, I do miss Texas politics.
Some Republicans are still wondering why they lost the elections so badly. Hello!!

With "spokespeople" like Rep. Bettty Brown, Republicans don't need Democrats to defeat them.


Lawmaker defends comment on Asians

Call for voters to simplify their names not racially motivated, Terrell Republican says

Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle

April 9, 2009, 11:58AM

For the Chronicle

Rep. Betty Brown, R-Terrell, made the remark during House testimony on Tuesday.

The comments caused the Texas Democratic Party on Wednesday to demand an apology from state Rep. Betty Brown, R-Terrell. But a spokesman for Brown said her comments were only an attempt to overcome problems with identifying Asian names for voting purposes.

The exchange occurred late Tuesday as the House Elections Committee heard testimony from Ramey Ko, a representative of the Organization of Chinese Americans.

Ko told the committee that people of Chinese, Japanese and Korean descent often have problems voting and other forms of identification because they may have a legal transliterated name and then a common English name that is used on their driver’s license on school registrations.

Easier for voting?

Brown suggested that Asian-Americans should find a way to make their names more accessible.

“Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese — I understand it’s a rather difficult language — do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?” Brown said.

Brown later told Ko: “Can’t you see that this is something that would make it a lot easier for you and the people who are poll workers if you could adopt a name just for identification purposes that’s easier for Americans to deal with?”


Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Foreign Policy Tips for Obama from U.S. Muslims

Foreign Policy Tips for Obama

By Muhammed Qasim, Islamonline.net Correspondent

WASHINGTON — Sensing a genuine desire on his part to turn a new leaf in America's relations with the world, particularly Muslims, experts and community activists believe President Barack Obama needs to bring down old policies.

"President Obama is on the right track with his repeated messages to the Muslim world of mutual respect and dialogue," Hussam Ayloush, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) California chapter, told IslamOnline.net.

"[He] has a major task ahead of him to undo the damage caused by eight years of reckless policies by the former administration."

On the campaign trail and after election, Obama promised to reinvigorate US foreign policy, in order to restore the country's battered image worldwide.

He has vowed an ambitious foreign policy agenda that includes withdrawing from Iraq, an olive branch to longtime foes, including Iran, and a new leaf in America's relations with the Muslim world after eight rocky years under wartime predecessor George W. Bush.

Ronald Stockton, a Professor of Political Science and Arab American Studies at Michigan-Dearborn University, sees a particularly difficult challenge for Obama in the Muslim world.

"After September 11, the US focused upon violent elements within the Muslim community. This…made all Muslims feel that the US was hostile to them," he told IOL.

Stockton says some Muslims see Obama as another version of Bush and doubt his sincerity.

"But he is very sincere in his respect and admiration for Islam."

Obama has seized upon his visit to Turkey, his first to a Muslim country since assuming office, earlier this week to break the ice with the Muslim world.

"Let me say this as clearly as I can: The United States is not, and will never be, at war with Islam," he told the Turkish parliament on Monday, April 6.

"We will listen carefully, bridge misunderstanding, and seek common ground. We will be respectful, even when we do not agree."

Experts note that as genuine as Obama might be about chartering a new foreign policy, he needs to take practical steps to convince skepticals.

"Now he needs to advance policies that unequivocally end the use of torture and illegal detentions, help bring justice and peace to Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine, and reiterate America’s respect for Islam," Ayloush said.

Hatem Bazian, an academic at the University of California, sees a set of standards that should govern a new American foreign policy.

"Equality of all mankind regardless of race, gender, nationality or religion," the Palestinian-American expert of Eastern and ethnic studies told IOL.

"All are equal under the law, both domestic and international law. We have had a double standard in our application of international law."

Bazian insists Obama should distance himself from the policies of his wartime predecessor and embrace the principle that "war is not an option," but rather a "last resort".

"Military intervention can delay or shield us from the real problems. But it alone can't change the conditions on the ground.

"The Muslim world needs less militarism, less troops, no occupations, no more torture, less double standards, no more dictators, no kings and no despotic governments."

Another critical change should be offering an even-handed policy to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and end the bias toward Israel.

"The US government should uphold the articles of the 4th Geneva Convention and hold Israel to the same standards that we hold our own soldiers in the conduct of war."

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Chicken a la Carte (Must Watch)

Muslims voice support for Obama's message

Monday, April 6, 2009
O.C. Muslims voice support for Obama's message
The Orange County Register

Barack Obama's speech before the Turkish parliament today also was heard back home and generally welcomed by Muslim Americans while a UCI Iranian expert said the president's continued overtures towards the Islamic community portend real policy changes likely will follow...

In a 25-minute speech in Ankara, Obama declared that the United States "is not and will never be at war with Islam."

On his first visit to a Muslim nation as president, Obama continued his efforts to push for a respectful relationship with the Muslim world.

Calling the consistency of his message good, UCI Prof. Nasrin Rahimieh, a linguist and an expert in Iranian literature, said the speech will be viewed as a welcome change in the posture that the United States has adopted towards both the Muslim world and Muslim Americans.

"Some of these people come from countries where Islam is the dominant religion. So President Obama's valorization of the contribution of Muslim Americans will also indicate a positive change," said Rahimieh, the director of the Dr. Samuel M. Jordan Center for Persian Studies and Culture at the university.

Obama told Turkish legislators: "I also want to be clear that America's relationship with the Muslim community, the Muslim world, cannot, and will not, just be based upon opposition to terrorism."

"We seek broader engagement based on mutual interest and mutual respect. … We will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over the centuries to shape the world including in my own country. The United States has been enriched by Muslim Americans. Many other Americans have Muslims in their families or have lived in a Muslim-majority country I know, because I am one of them," he continued.

Rahimieh said she was fascinated that Obama referred to his extended Muslim family "which positions him to better understand how it feels like to have an entire population feel isolated and marginalized in the U.S. and globally (and) so be seen only as potential terrorists and risks for security."

"But I believe that we'll see more consistent policy action because of these speeches and they indicate changes to come," she added.

One Orange County Muslim cleric said the president needs to lay out specifics of how he can help achieve lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians – a subject Obama also touched on in his speech today – and he must reassure Muslim Americans the same way he is reaching out to Muslims worldwide.

"As much as we liked his appeal to the greater Muslim community out there, we want similar appeal to the greater Muslim community in the United States … which feels that either we're guilty by association or we're targeted," said Yassir Fazaga, the imam or religious leader at the Orange County Islamic Foundation mosque in Mission Viejo. "We don't want to feel left out here."

Urging a greater partnership with the Islamic world in an address to the Turkish parliament, Obama called the country an important U.S. ally in many areas, including the fight against terrorism. He devoted much of his speech to urging a greater bond between Americans and Muslims, portraying terrorist groups such as al Qaida as extremists who do not represent the vast majority of Muslims.

"Let me say this as clearly as I can," Obama said. "The United States is not and will never be at war with Islam. In fact, our partnership with the Muslim world is critical ... in rolling back the violent ideologies that people of all faiths reject."

The U.S. president is trying to mend fences with a Muslim world that felt it had been blamed by America for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The sentiment that America is not against Islam bears repeating, said Munira Syeda, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Anaheim.

"I would say that as American Muslims we welcome and applaud President Obama's message of bridging the gap between America and the Muslim world in particular his statement that the U.S. is not at war with Islam," she said. It "is a positive message that should be restated every time."

The message represents a change from the attitude of the Bush administration, local Muslims say.

"In general, Muslims here and abroad have been waiting for such reconciliatory gestures and moves," Syeda said. "The past administration took on the approach of confrontation and took unilateral positions and President Obama's administration is a shift towards mutual respect and dialogue and will further the cause of world peace and stability."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact the writer: 949-465-5424 or vjolly@ocregsiter.com