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, July 20, 2009

KPCC Radio: Ayloush comments on FBI's faltering relationship with U.S. Muslims

KPCC 89.3 (local NPR) interviews Hussam Ayloush to comment on the faltering relationship between the FBI and U.S. Muslims. One reason for that has to do with a man named Craig Monteilh. Many Muslims in Southern California claim he infiltrated mosques and gyms while working as an FBI informant.

More from KPCC's Alex Cohen.

Jimmy Carter Leaves Church Over Treatment of Women -- Politics Daily

Jimmy Carter Leaves Church Over Treatment of Women -- Politics Daily

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Islamic Finance Weathered the Global Economic Crisis Better Than Most

Islamic Finance and SRI: Two Investment Approaches That Have Weathered the Global Economic Crisis Better Than Most

Business Wire
July 20, 2009

Islamic Finance and Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) are receiving considerable attention in the financial press. Islamic Finance is a banking system and investment approach that adheres to the principles of Islamic law (sharia). Most notably this includes the sharing of profit and loss, prohibition against investing in certain types of businesses and charging a fee for lending money. In the last decade Islamic Finance has exceeded 10% annual growth. Latest figures from ISFL (International Financial Services London) estimate that the global market size was $729 billion at the end of 2007. All financial institutions have been hit by the current crisis since then, but numerous analysts agree that the outlook for Islamic Finance remains positive. Indeed, there is a growing trend amongst Western financial institutions, especially in France in the UK, to push harder to attract investment from Middle East and Muslim Asia.

SRI: Safe haven investments amidst global crisis

SRI is an investment management approach which integrates Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria in traditional financial analysis. Despite having less framework and detailed rules than Islamic Finance, SRI shares a focus on non-economic factors in its economic and social principles. According to the Social Investment Organization, SRI is seeing considerably lower shareholder redemption rates than conventional funds - strong evidence that suggests investors are committed to SRI for the long-term. Also, it is reported across the board that in the last few years SRI assets have been increasing at a higher rate than other professional managed assets. In France for example, SRI continues to grow despite the current economic turmoil with total assets amounting to 30 billion EUR at the end of 2008 (up 37% from 2007).

Bounce back potential

Economies around the world will bounce back from today's tough times, but confidence in conventional banking won't. This means that traditional banking's long term prospects have been damaged and many people and institutions will look for alternatives. Islamic finance and SRI have somewhat resisted the economic downturn, and may prove to be in the long run, a popular choice to those looking for more sustainable investment solutions.

Novethic's working paper explores crossover between SRI and Islamic Finance

Although SRI as it is applied in France today has grown into a strategy in its own right, it stems from a desire to transcribe the religious beliefs of both individual and institutional investors into financial practices, like Islamic finance. Novethic's SRI research centre examined the crossover between these two investment universes and assessed the following issues:
  • How do these investment strategies play off each other?
  • Can the religious precepts of Islamic finance compare with those that founded ethical finance in predominantly Protestant and/or Catholic countries?
  • If so, could the extension of Islamic finance throughout the Muslim world suggest any potential for the subsequent development of SRI as we know it in France today?

Click here to read the free working paper in full now: http://www.novethic.com/novethic/v3_uk/upload/Islamic_Finance_and_SRI_Working_Paper.pdf

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

After "the War on Terror": Obama, Islam & Israel

(A GOOD READ)

Commonweal Magazine
July 17, 2009

Jack Miles

“What if they gave a war and no one came?” read a bumper sticker popular during the Vietnam War. Today’s version might ask, What if they gave a war on terror and no one came?

President George W. Bush first used the fateful phrase “war on terror” in an address to Congress on September 20, 2001, identifying what he later called “the defining struggle of our time.” And though initially the 9/11 attacks united the West while embarrassing and dividing the Muslim world, in time the rhetoric of a “war on terror” reversed those terms. With just three words, the president managed to transform Osama bin Laden from a criminal fugitive into a historic military commander, the head of a new, potentially world-changing army of fanatics. The subsequent invasion of Iraq, centerpiece of the Bush war on terror, only confirmed bin Laden in many Muslim eyes as a Saladin rather than a mass murderer.

Against this background, the disappearance of “war on terror” from the diplomatic lexicon of Barack Obama’s administration—neither the president nor Secretary of State Hillary Clinton nor Defense Secretary Robert Gates has used the phrase even once—is significant. In just a few months’ time, the administration has replaced a grandiose, counterproductive fantasy with realistic attention to a set of grievous but real problems. There is a new awareness in American diplomacy that international relations are now complicated by intercultural relations, including strange new culture-to-religion-to-government hybrids; and that the U.S. government ignores these realities at its own peril...

Click here to read complete article.

Join the Jewish Fast For Gaza

The Torah teaches,

"Do not stand idly by when your neighbor’s blood is being spilled" (Leviticus 19:16).


The Jewish Fast for Gaza is an ad hoc group of rabbis, Jews, and people of conscience who have committed to undertake a monthly daytime fast in support of the following goals:

1. To call for a lifting of the blockade that prevents the entry of civilian goods and services into Gaza;

2. To provide humanitarian and developmental aid to the people of Gaza;

3. To call upon Israel, the US, and the international community to engage in negotiations without pre-conditions with all relevant Palestinian parties - including Hamas - in order to end the blockade;

4. To encourage the American government to vigorously engage both Israelis and Palestinians toward a just and peaceful settlement of the conflict.


To learn more or join/support the fast

Feeling the Hate in Tel Aviv -- The Sequel to the Video YouTube Censored

Of course, such bigoted comments only represent those who make them and should not be seen as a condemnation of a whole group of people. There are racist and ignorant people every where. Unfortunately, there is a growing acceptance of such racism in Israel and it is making peace impossible.

Also, keep in mind, the producer of this revealing video, Max Blumenthal, is himself Jewish and has continuously advocated for equality and respect for all people.

I salute Max Blumenthal for his courage and principles.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Jews, Christians and Muslims unite to challenge anti-Islam sign at church

Local residents gather outside The Dove World Outreach Center to protest the Church's controversial sign placed in their lawn.

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(TAMPA, FL, 7/9/2009) The Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Tampa) today asked to speak about Islam and the American Muslim community at a Gainesville, Fla., church that has a sign claiming Islam is of the devil on its property. In his address to church members, KiliƧ would ask that the offensive sign be taken down as a gesture to promote greater interfaith understanding and tolerance.

The church's senior pastor has been quoted saying: "We actually posted the sign because there is a tremendous growth in Islam at this time. It is a violent and oppressive religion and does not have anything to do with the truth of the Bible."

Friday, July 03, 2009

Did FBI informant actually inspire Bronx synagogue plot?

By Amira Hass
Haaretz
6/15/2009

NEWBURGH, New York - The first time Kathleen Baines saw Maksud was on Wednesday, May 20. Like everyone else, she knew the well-to-do Pakistani by his first name only. He had started appearing here the previous September, wandering around outside Masjid al-Ikhlas (the "mosque of devotion") in town, meeting people in a popular local restaurant, paying for their meals and offering financial help.

Frequenters of the mosque, some of them immigrants from East Asia and others African Americans, could not help but notice that Maksud had five vehicles, including a Mercedes, a BMW and an ATV.

On that Wednesday in May, Maksud arrived in the neighborhood in one of his cars at about 4 P.M. and stopped at Baines' house. He has a narrow face, she recalls now, and peroxided hair. He would wear sunglasses and expensive shoes. Whenever he came to look for her partner, James Cromitie, in recent months, he would remain outside, and this time was no different.

"Where is the brother?" he asked, and she answered from the window: "James is on his motorbike with my son." Maksud asked her what his cellular phone number was. The question sounded strange to Baines since he was the one who had given James the phone.

When Cromitie returned with her son on the motorbike, he gave her a kiss and went over to Maksud's car. She saw on the seat of the car that three cellular telephones had been placed alongside one another and this also seemed strange.

"Where are you going?" she asked and James replied, "We're going to eat." "When will you get back?" she asked and Maksud answered, "about 8 P.M."

At around 8 P.M. she called her partner, but there was no reply. She was not surprised. "Maksud would always force him to turn off his phone when they met. He always tried to persuade James to leave me. He called me the 'boss-woman.' He would ask: Where is the bitch?" she said when we met last week in Newburgh.

Cromitie did his best to avoid Maksud, Baines says. They were relieved when he said he was leaving for Pakistan in November 2008, but in January 2009 he returned.

"I'm taking the brother to the mosque," Maksud would tell her. He paid for Baines' rent several times, gave Cromitie money and promised to bring them gifts. "Listen, sister," she remembers him saying, "if the brother wants $10,000, I'll give it to him." Maksud would add that this was in the spirit of Islam.

Baines is 42 and has two grown daughters, a 6-year-old son from a different man and a 2-year-old grandson.

"James treated all of us like his family," she says. She met him in a hostel for men, where she worked, four years ago. Cromitie, 53, was born in Brooklyn and spent 12 years in jail for various drug offenses. In 2005, a few months after he was released, he moved to Newburgh. "He is a gentleman. One doesn't find men like that today. He asked me to stop working. He converted to Islam in jail and from that I understood that Islam must be good because he treated me well."

On that day in May when she tried to reach him by phone, Baines did not know that Maksud, Cromitie and three of their friends were on their way to Riverdale in the Bronx, to carry out what Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Snyder described later as an unimaginable, blood-curdling plot: planting bombs in parked cars next to a Riverdale synagogue and Jewish cultural center, and shooting missiles at a helicopter at Newburgh's Air National Guard base.

The lethal plot was foiled, however. One of the five men put the bombs in place while three others kept watch. But no one was aware that the bombs had been defused earlier by the Federal Bureau of Investigation - and that FBI officers, members of the New York Police Department and a joint anti-terror force were lying in wait for them.

When the men returned to the car, they were arrested at the height of an "painstaking operation," as one source said to The New York Times. According to official reports, the investigation started in June 2008. The FBI received a tip-off then that the men were planning to attack targets in the United States. Four of the men are converts to Islam; three were born in the U.S. and the fourth (said to have psychiatric problems) is from Haiti. They were all jailed in the past for drug offenses.

In a press conference held outside the Jewish center in the Bronx on May 21, the commissioner of the New York City Police Department, Raymond Kelly, said the four had been overheard saying they wanted to carry out a jihad because so many Muslims were being killed in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Democratic Party Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, who represents the Bronx in the state assembly, said in an interview with the Times that people are sometimes motivated by religious hatred and hatred of Jews, but it was fortunate that the FBI and police had uncovered this plot at an early stage.

On that fateful Wednesday evening, Baines still knew nothing - even when FBI agents carried out a search of her house and detained her for five hours. The following day, when it was reported that the driver of the car had cooperated with the FBI, Baines realized that this was Maksud - "the man who destroyed my life."

Salahuddin Muhammad, the imam of the local mosque, was not surprised. "We thought he was an informer," he told both journalists and the children who study in the mosque. The children saw all the media buzz and were disturbed that the name of their mosque had come up in connection with the plot. "We wondered what to do," the imam explained to the youngsters. "How should we tell the authorities that we suspected him? But it was the authorities who had sent him."

Maksud, it later transpired, is a Pakistani immigrant who was arrested in 2002 for selling fake driving licenses to immigrants. In order to avoid serving a jail sentence and being exiled, he agreed to work for the FBI. An on-the-ball journalist from The New York Post realized this was the same federal informer who had worked five years earlier in Albany, New York, in a similar fashion. He had appeared near a local mosque there, presented himself as religious and rich, and had become friendly with Musharaff Hussein, an immigrant from Bangladesh who owned a pizzeria and was having money troubles. According to the official version, the informer eventually helped to thwart a dangerous terror plot planned by the pizzeria owner and the mosque's imam, Yassin Arif, originally from Kurdistan. They were plotting to kill a Pakistani diplomat and to finance the murder by selling weapons. In Albany, Maksud used a different name.

An FBI spokesman in New York refused to confirm or deny that this was the same informer, but said, in a telephone conversation, that the prosecution had to prove the guilt of the four men while the defense had to prove that they had fallen into a trap.

Rights groups intervene

At the end of March, a federal judge demanded that the FBI provide 100 documents with details of the techniques used by agents tailing Islamic organizations in southern California. The directive came in the wake of a 2007 petition from the American Civil Liberties Union after Muslim communities revealed a number of incidents involving FBI informers in mosques. They said at least one such agent-informer, Craig Montal, had tried to convince people to blow up buildings in Los Angeles.

According to lawyers and activists in human rights organizations, Montal's system was used in most of the incidents involving exposure of terrorist plots in the U.S, since the September 11, 2001 attack. Agents, some of them with dubious backgrounds, have infiltrated the Muslim communities, and in at least one case, in Miami, communities of non-Muslim blacks. Without strong evidence, they hone in on weak elements in the society, spread around ideas for attacks and sometimes even supply explosives, rights groups say. According to this version, such exposure leads to giant headlines that feed the public's fear of Islam, makes heroes out of the FBI and garners support for aggressive internal security policy. When the details become clear at a later stage, no one is interested in them or in the families that have been destroyed.

The timing of the incident in Riverdale coincided with a stormy debate over changes required in America's internal security policy. On June 2, indictments were submitted against the four men from Newburgh. The following day they pleaded not guilty. Salahuddin Muhammad, the imam, does not make light of the fact that the four men who were presented as Muslims were part of a plot to place explosives next to Jewish institutions. He says, however, that the four were not regular worshipers at his mosque.

"I saw Cromitie only a few times in the mosque. If they had come to pray regularly, they would have known we were suspicious of 'Maksud' and they would have distanced themselves from him," Muhammad explains. "They would have continued to this day to wander around the streets and get high together."

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Jews and Muslims unite against Jerusalem Museum of Tolerance

By Nir Hasson
Haaretz

A new Jewish-Muslim initiative is seeking to derail the planned Museum of Tolerance, which is currently being built in Jerusalem on the site of a former Muslim cemetery.

The initiative's hopes to get the site declared ritually impure under Jewish law, due to the fact that the construction has involved unearthing the remains of hundreds of Muslims. Such a declaration would keep religious Jews from visiting the museum.

The proposal has already received the blessing of Rabbi David Schmidl, head of the ultra-Orthodox Atra Kadisha organization, which fights against the desecration of Jewish graves. Its Jewish sponsors - who include two left-wing activists plus one activist from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party - are also seeking support from Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar, but he has not yet replied to their letter.

The museum, which is being built in Jerusalem's Mamilla neighborhood by the Wiesenthal Center, occupies a site that served for hundreds of years as a Muslim cemetery, but was then turned into a parking lot. Because the work involves unearthing hundreds of skeletons and reinterring them at the margins of the site, it has aroused fierce opposition from Muslim groups, who petitioned the High Court of Justice against it.

However, the court accepted the museum's argument that the lack of Muslim objection when the site was turned into a parking lot indicates that it is no longer deemed holy ground.

The new initiative is the brainchild of Meir Margalit, a Jerusalem city councilman from the Meretz Party who is active in the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, and Gershon Baskin, who is co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information.

Three months ago, they approached Shas activist Meir Sheetreet, who is known to be close to the party's spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Sheetreet said he believed it would be possible to obtain a joint Jewish-Muslim declaration about the sanctity of the site. It was Sheetreet who approached Schmidl and secured his support for the initiative.

In return, Sheetreet asked his leftist partners to obtain a promise from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that the sanctity of Joseph's Tomb in Nablus would be respected, and Baskin did so.

"Because Joseph's Tomb is recognized in the [Oslo] Accords as a holy site, the PLO recognizes and honors what was agreed to," wrote Rafik Husseini, Abbas' bureau chief, in a letter to the activists. The Palestine Liberation Organization is the group that signed the Oslo Accords on the Palestinians' behalf.

Husseini also wrote that he expected Israel to recognize and respect the sanctity of the Mamilla cemetery and refrain from moving the remains of the people buried there.

After receiving the letter, Sheetreet asked Amar to issue a similar statement demanding respect for the sanctity of the Mamilla cemetery. However, that was more than a month ago, and he has yet to receive a reply.

Sheetreet told Haaretz yesterday that he was sorry the initiative was being publicized at this stage. The goal, he said, is a joint, public declaration by Jewish and Muslim religious authorities against "trampling on the honor of the dead."

He added that he has not approached Yosef on the matter because he wants to keep the initiative strictly religious, and due to Yosef's role in Shas, his involvement might make it seem political.