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, August 30, 2010

A message from an Arab Catholic priest to Pastor Jones who wants to burn the Quran

Original Arabic message.

Translated from Arabic by Hussam Ayloush

A message from Father Elias Zahlawi (a Syrian Catholic priest) to Pastor Terry Jones (who is calling for the burning of the Quran).

Respected Pastor Terry Jones,

I have read your worldwide call for the burning of the Quran on this coming 11th of September. Your message stated that you are a pastor of one of the churches in Florida in the United States of America.

As an Arab Catholic priest from Damascus (Syria), I wondered what would be your objective, as an American pastor, for such a call?

I wondered, and I ask you: What are your responsibilities as a pastor?
Are you really a Christian pastor serving God in a church in America?
Or are you merely a layperson from America who is pretending to be in the service of Christ?

Did you give in to your nationalism (Americanism) rather than giving in to your Christianity?

What is your aim with that call?

(Do you wish) to further fuel hatred among people? Is that consistent with (the teachings of) Jesus, whom you represent in your eyes and the eyes of many others?
Tell me, is there in the character of Jesus, in his words or in his actions anything that would remotely justify even a hint of promoting disdain and hatred among people?

Have you forgotten that Jesus was completely for love, forgiveness and peace? Have you forgotten what he taught us when he told his disciples and the people after them to tell God the heavenly Father of all to “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who wrong us”? You overlooked or forgot that when Jesus was hanging on the cross and being subjected to insults and vile words, he raised his voice, saying, “O Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Who, then, do you represent or who are you trying to guide with this call of yours?

Isn’t it enough what has been happening since September 11, 2001: the killing, destruction, displacement and starvation of hundreds of millions of people throughout the world, from Palestine – the land of Jesus – by your leaders in particular, headed by George Bush, who was claiming direct communication with God?

Wouldn’t you agree with me that with your call (to burn the Quran), you have demonstrated that you are really unfamiliar with Jesus and that you desperately need to re-discover him again to be a true Christian pastor who calls, like Jesus, for the comprehensive love and full respect for every human being and a commitment to the full and wonderful teachings that call upon all believers, without exception, to always stand beside the poor, the oppressed and the disadvantaged?

My brother Pastor Terry Jones. Can you tell me, honestly, if Jesus came today, whose side would he take?

Is it the side of the powerful and arrogant oppressors who dominate the world and endlessly plunder its resources, violate its laws and international treaties, and kill people in their countries and destroy houses on top of their owners and turn them into refugees across the earth? Or is it the side of those who are oppressed, the disadvantaged, hungry, and homeless?

Did you forget what Jesus himself would say on the Day of Judgment to each person in front of him: “All that you did to one of my brothers, you actually did to me”?

I wonder if you have overlooked or forgotten that Jesus did not point in that speech on the Day of Judgment to the religion of any of those mistreated persons. He only referred to everyone as belonging to the human race and to his standing with the deprived, the weak, and the oppressed in this world.

So how could you as an American Christian pastor stand with the oppressors from your country whose injustice has spread around the world?

Aren’t you afraid of when you appear before Jesus on Judgment Day and you are burdened with a heavy conscience, like your leaders who are blinded by the gods of power, money, control and greed?

My brother Pastor Terry. Do you think I am being unfair if I conclude that your hatred toward Islam is what drove you to such a reprehensible call for the burning of Islam's holy book, the Quran?

But let me ask you, as a Syrian Roman Catholic priest: What do you know about Islam? It appears to me from your call to burn the Quran that you are ignorant of Christ and Christianity, and that makes me believe that you are also ignorant of Islam and Muslims.

Believe me, it is not my intention to indict you and it is not my intention to engage with you in a religious debate about Christianity or Islam. However, after I prayed for a long time, let me suggest for both of us to make a joint effort on this coming September 11.

You might ask me what effort can we do jointly when you are in Florida and I'm in Damascus?

Here is my suggestion.

I invite you to visit Syria, where you will be my guest and the guest of many of my Muslim and Christian friends. Syria is a country populated mostly by Muslims and in which Christians are indigenous to the land and have lived side-by-side with Muslims for centuries and centuries.

Come and don’t worry about anything.

Come and you will find out about Islam and Muslims what will comfort you, please you, surprise you, and even lead you, from where you are today in Florida, to invite all people to live in respect, love and cooperation among all people.

This is what people need rather than the un-Christian call to fuel the sentiment of hatred and division.

Come to Syria and you will be amazed by the good nature of people and their faith, their relations, friendly cooperation and openness toward all strangers.

Come to Damascus to witness and live an experience that is not in your mind nor the mind or expectation of all the churches of the West or their bishops, pastors, and clergymen.

Come to see and hear two choruses, Christian and Muslim, singing together during Christian and Islamic holidays to praise Allah, the One God, who created us all, and to whom we all return.

My brother Pastor Terry.

I call you my brother and I am serious about calling you brother and about my invitation to you. I await a word (of reply) from you. Trust me that you will find a brother in Damascus, actually many brothers.

Please contact me and don’t delay. I am waiting for you in Damascus.

I ask God to make our anticipated meeting the beginning of a long and interesting path that we undertake together with other brothers in Damascus and around the world.

How desperate is the need of our world for bright roads.

Come, the road to Damascus is waiting for you.

Father Elias Zahlawi

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Lawsuit Against FBI May Set Tone -- Muslim-Americans Say the Agency Is Hiding Documents Without Good Cause

Lawsuit Against FBI May Set Tone
Muslim-Americans Say the Agency Is Hiding Documents Without Good Cause

By Gabe Friedman

Daily Journal Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES - Hussam Ayloush knew federal agents were keeping tabs on him, but he didn't know why.

An American citizen with no rap sheet, Ayloush heads a local branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. In the months and years after Sept. 11, he and a group of other influential Muslim leaders started meeting with the FBI to share tips about possible terrorist activity.

But in May 2006, Ayloush began to think he was the target of secret FBI surveillance, and when he asked to see what evidence the government was collecting on him or his group, he was rebuffed.

After filing records requests with the help of attorneys, the FBI sent Ayloush just three pages of mostly redacted information, and refused to search for more documents.

Since then, Ayloush and four other prominent Muslim-American activists have been waging a quiet battle in a Santa Ana federal court to force the FBI to disclose details about its surveillance of them and their organizations. Their lawsuit uses the Freedom of Information Act in an effort to force the FBI to more thoroughly disclose records that the bureau often argues it can keep secret for security reasons even when they are not considered classified.

"Sometimes it does feel a little like Franz Kafka's 'The Trial,'" said Mohammed Abdul Aleem, chief executive officer of non-profit website Islamicity.com, another plaintiff in the lawsuit who is seeking information. "It's about an environment of fear that has been created. It has been drummed up so much that I don't think people are able to think rationally."

Details of the long-running dispute have evaded the spotlight because the government convinced a district court judge to keep the proceedings, including the government's arguments, largely under seal - hidden even from the plaintiffs' lawyers. After that judge seemed poised to force the bureau to reveal information last year, the government appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, where many of its filings have remained under wraps.

Ayloush and Aleem's claims are gaining new significance because their complaint is so far ahead of others like it - one is pending in San Diego and another was filed just this week by Muslim and media groups in San Francisco.

An impending appellate decision in the case could set the stage for other litigation and provide wider scrutiny of the bureau's surveillance tactics. An array of related civil rights lawsuits have been filed all over the country, including cases challenging questionable detentions of Muslim activists, surveillance of religious leaders and the infiltration of mosques by undercover informants.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, which is representing the plaintiffs, claims the case and others like it cut to the heart of whether Muslim Americans can expect the same respect for their civil rights as others in the U.S.

The appeal comes at an increasingly tense time following the fierce debate and political maneuvering around the proposal to construct an Islamic community center near ground zero in Manhattan.

Susan Akram, a professor at Boston University School of Law and expert on the Freedom of Information Act, said the appeal could have broad implications. FOIA requires the FBI to turn over almost all information with only a narrow band of exemptions, including national security, Akram said.

"This may very well be a ruling on the FOIA exemptions and what type of evidence a government agency would have to produce to justify that one of the exemptions applies," she said.

The Santa Ana case brought by Ayloush, Aleem and others has been wending its way through district court for years, mostly cloaked in secrecy. Islamic Shura Council v. FBI, 07-01088.

Most of what the FBI has collected on the activists, as well as the motivation and tactics used, has been redacted heavily, and other documents have not been turned over at all. The Department of Justice, which is representing the bureau, declined to comment on the case, spokesman Charles Miller said.

But the FBI publicly has taken the position that it withheld information about its surveillance program for various reasons, including national security concerns and to protect the privacy and identity of certain individuals.

What is known is that several of the plaintiffs in the case had a friendlier relationship with the FBI before the court battle. Aleem and Ayloush, as well as two other plaintiffs, Muzammil Siddiqi and Shakeel Syed, said they belonged to a committee composed of imams and other prominent leaders in the Muslim-American community that met monthly with the FBI starting around 2004.

In an interview, Ayloush said the idea for that group, known as the Multi-Cultural Advisory Committee, grew out of a meeting at his Anaheim office between local imams, community leaders and top FBI agents.

Ayloush said over the years he had numerous conversations with the FBI. According to one of the few documents produced by the government in the case, a conversation took place between Ayloush and an FBI field agent. It suggests the FBI was visiting him because it had heard Ayloush "instructed the community not to talk to FBI agents without an attorney present," which was described as a potential threat to the FBI's ability to obtain actionable intelligence from the community.

"At the end of the meeting, Ayloush offered to assist ... with reaching out to a broader audience within the Muslim community," the FBI memo states.

Aleem and Ayloush said the advisory committee meetings initially were well-attended by local leaders. Over the years, however, mistrust grew between the two sides and the meetings ended.

Ayloush said he thinks he was tracked by the FBI because he is vocal on a variety of issues from U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East to Arizona's new immigration law.

Aleem, whose website is one of the first devoted to Islam and features links to news items as well as information about the religion, said he is still interested in cooperating with the FBI. In 2004, he testified for the Department of Justice in a terrorism case in Idaho.

But Aleem said he stopped attending meetings because he became convinced that the FBI was not interested in a cooperative approach with the Muslim community. He said he was bothered by reports that the FBI continued to question community members about fundraisers, particular sermons, and political views.

For example, one former FBI informant Craig Monteilh, a convicted felon, was acting as an agent provocateur, showing up in mosques and trying to instigate criminal acts, they alleged. Monteilh is suing the FBI for alleged civil rights violations, claiming the bureau conspired to have him arrested for grand theft.

After receiving complaints from community members, Ayloush and the other plaintiffs asked the FBI for any files pertaining to themselves under the federal Freedom of Information Act in May 2006.

Six non-profit organizations joined the request, including the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, Council on American-Islamic Relations of California, Islamic Center of San Gabriel Valley, Islamic Center of Hawthorne, West Coast Islamic Center and Human Assistance and Development International.

After a back-and-forth exchange, the FBI produced a three-page memo related to Ayloush and one page related to his organization, but did not produce any documents for the remaining nine plaintiffs, and informed their lawyers at the ACLU that their only recourse was to seek judicial review, according to court documents.

Following the lawsuit, the FBI eventually produced 124 more pages of documents on the other nine defendants and 32 pages related to the Multi-Cultural Advisory Committee, which were heavily redacted.

Those redactions were haphazard and inconsistent, the ACLU contends.

"My hope is that we'll establish guidelines in this case that benefit not only this FOIA request, but also other FOIA requests involving Muslim communities," said Ahilan Arulanantham, a lawyer at the ACLU of Southern California. "We think these documents will show the FBI is surveilling Muslim-Americans for completely legitimate activity protected by the First Amendment."

The government must give a reason for why such material is redacted. The most common explanation provided was that the passages were "outside the scope" of the request, rather than classified information or key to national security.

That justification seemed to lose favor with U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney, who is presiding over the case and called it a matter of significant "public interest."

Although Carney has held much of the proceedings via in camera hearings - where only the FBI's lawyers were present - the fact that the government appealed his May 2009 ruling shows the judge is leaning toward disclosure, unless the appellate court steps in.

The appellate court has been fully briefed on the case, lawyers said, but allowed the FBI to lay out the legal rationale for its stance in briefs with large portions redacted or under seal. A hearing is expected soon.

For its part, the FBI appears to have argued that disclosing information about its surveillance sets a dangerous precedent, eroding its ability to covertly gather information.

In a portion of the FBI's appellate brief that was not filed under seal, its lawyers stated that even though publishing Carney's decision would not reveal classified information, there are compelling reasons to keep it secret. The courts "give special deference to the Executive Branch when it invokes national security concerns," the brief said.

Carney appeared skeptical of heavy redactions, noting that some documents were entirely blank except for the plaintiff's name and a brief sentence. The judge, known as a conservative with an independent streak who was appointed by President George W. Bush, also questioned the FBI's rationale for withholding documents, calling it "mistaken" to argue the plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative remedies before filing suit.

"The FBI failed to perform a sufficient search," he wrote in an April 2009 ruling.

If the court orders more transparency, Ayloush hopes it will highlight whether the FBI should interview people about their political views.

"The main goal of our suit is to eventually help the FBI respect our community," he said. "You can't have this partnership if you're treating your partner as a suspect."

© 2010 Daily Journal Corporation. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ameena Qazi Discusses Discrimination Case at Disneyland

CAIR-LA staff attorney Ameena Qazi discusses a case of religious accommodation for a Disneyland employee on FOX's "The O'Reilly Factor." Laura Ingraham was filling in for Bill O'Reilly.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ayloush on Live Q&A with Washington Post readers; on NY City mosque

The New York City mosque: Hussam Ayloush of CAIR argues for building it

Hussam Ayloush
Exec. Dir., Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
Monday, August 16, 2010; 2:00 PM

Hussam Ayloush, executive director of CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations in Los Angeles, was online Monday, Aug. 16, at 2 p.m. ET to discuss the issue of whether an Islamic community center should be built in Lower Manhattan in New York City, approximately two blocks from the World Trade Center.
In an e-mail interview with Ayloush he said, "CAIR views the issue as a First Amendment -- religious freedom -- issue. President Obama said it very well: "Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances." We could not agree more."
washingtonpost.com: We have extended invitations to various conservative voices in the controversy for another chat on the issue. We presently are awaiting word. Please consult the Live Discussions schedule.
Hussam Ayloush: Hi everyone. My name is Hussam Ayloush. I am the Executive Director of the Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). I am very honored to join you on this online chat to discuss the issue of the building of the Muslim community center in Lower Manhattan.
CAIR views the issue as a First Amendment - religious freedom - matter.
Southern Maryland: How would you answer the people who claim that the Islamic Center's planners are being "insensitive" to the 9/11 families? One would think that reasonable people would grasp that the monsters behind the terrorist attack didn't represent an entire religion and weren't acting on its behalf. I might understand the argument about insensitivity if the center was part of 9/11 attack or had endorsed it. Plus, most of the people making that argument did NOT lose loved ones and are simply claiming to speak for those who did.
Hussam Ayloush: You are absolutely right. The 9-11 attacks were the result of an ideology of violent extremism and not Islam. Islam rejects such murderous action and every major Muslim scholar and institution has unequivocally condemned the act and those who try to justify if under Islamic teachings. Denying the building of any mosque on such false premise would be an unjust indictment of the religion of Islam and its peaceful followers in America.
Owners: Who actually owns the land the mosque would be built on?
Hussam Ayloush: I am almost certain that it is owned by the group that is trying to build the center and the mosque. What is for certain is that all such buildings (places of worship) will have to be built on private land. That allows us Americans to enjoy freedom from any government interference, positive or negative, in the practice of our respective religions. We all have the right to practice freely.
San Diego, Calif.: I can't believe we are having this discussion in America, and that it is being politicized for midterm elections. Sensitivity doesn't include religious bigotry. The people who crashed into the WTC were bigots and fanatics, and they exist in every religion. This property isn't on the site, and if the world's last hope of reconciliation (i.e., the United States) can't exemplify tolerance, we are doomed. This isn't a New York only issue, just as the September 11th events weren't.
Hussam Ayloush: I and many Americans share your frustration and amazement. However, I am hopeful that this same discussion might stimulate a long overdue internal discussion among us Americans. It is our chance as Americans to come together to reject bigotry and the politics of paranoia and those who promote them for their self-serving reasons. It matters a lot which America will prevail 10 years after the horrific attacks of 9-11. The whole world is watching this debate and rooting for the America that they have always admired: The America of freedoms and tolerance.
Washington, D.C.: I don't understand why, when the organizers insist that this building is intended for increasing cultural understanding, the organizers insist on building it at this particular location. A location that clearly a majority of the U.S. population seems to feel is inconsistent with the stated purpose of the building.
Also, will there be a daily "call to prayers" that would be heard at the 9/ll site?
Hussam Ayloush: The organizers and all of us American Muslims are very sensitive to the genuine feeling of many fellow Americans about this project and its location. We know that there is a lot of confusion about Islam and how the terrorists have falsely claimed actions in its name. We know that we have to do more to explain our religion to our neighbors and friends. However, not building a Muslim center near Ground Zero on the basis of not opening the 9-11 wounds would mean that Islam and Muslims were responsible for the terrorist attacks. And that is absolutely wrong. The President said it correctly: "Al Qaeda's cause is not Islam - it is a gross distortion of Islam"

As for the daily call to prayer, I am sure that the prayer call will be done inside the prayer hall, as it is done in almost all mosques in America.
Rockville, Md.: I think the reaction of most people to the planned Islamic Center is shameful. The United States was built on the principle of religious liberty and the free exercise thereof. I feel like many who have spoken out against the mosque have completely lost sight of what this means. The mosque is no more an affront to the memory of 9/11 than building any other building: terrorists perpetrated the 9/11 attacks, not members of the Islamic Center.
Hussam Ayloush: Fully agreed.
Miami, Fla.: I have been reading that the Eid al Fitr festival may fall on or around September 11.
What are your views on how Muslims should celebrate this festival?
Hussam Ayloush: Muslims should take advantage of this unfortunate coincidence of Eid being on or close to Sep. 11 to reach out to fellow Americans to explain what Islam stands for. We should invite our neighbors to visit our mosques and share our meals. We must learn more about one another. We should be part of the efforts to promote interfaith relations and activities. I suggest that we move from regular talks to working together on common concerns in our communities, such as helping the poor, the sick, the homeless, and protecting our youths and families from gang violence, drugs, declining education...
Washington, D.C.: Do you feel President Obama is backtracking regarding this issue? First he says Muslims have the right to build their center but now he doesn't want to comment on the wisdom of this project. Do you think it would more convincing for the president to comment on the wisdom of this project, rather than the constitutional right? I firmly believe a significant portion of those against this project are purely anti-Muslim in nature.
Hussam Ayloush: President Obama made America proud on Friday. He chose to stand for what is moral and right and not necessarily popular at this moment. He chose the Constitution over political expediency.

The president was correct to speak up for religious freedom and equal rights, including the right to build mosques. I don't believe he is backtracking. A president or any public official does not necessarily need to endorse specific community centers or houses of worship - that would probably not be appropriate for the president to do for any specific project
Chicago, Ill.: You say that Islam was not responsible for the 9/11 attacks. But the attackers said that they did it because Islam says that it is permitted to kill non-believers or apostates. Many Islamic believers think it is okay to kill apostates or people who "insult" the religion. Look at the targeting of Danish cartoonists. So in that sense Islam can be viewed as culpable, just as the Catholic Church was culpable in the Spanish Inquisition. How would you refute that charge?
Hussam Ayloush: All religions are subject to the manipulation of its scriptures and teachings by extremists or those who wish to serve their own interests. If we are to ban mosques because a minority of fanatics (rejected by the rest of the mainstream) have abused that religion, then we would probably not allow any religious place in America.

Shall we ban "White" churches considering that many KKK members falsely hid behind Christianity as they murdered and terrorized Blacks in America? How about Buddhist temples in America considering that Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. How about Lutheran churches; after all we were at war with Germany in WWII?

Of course, that should never happen. No religion should be held responsible for the action of a small minority of extremists.
La Mirada, Calif.: How do you think all the opposition towards the mosque near ground zero is effecting average mosques around the country and do you think the situation is affecting average American Muslim citizens in their day-to-day dealings with others?
Hussam Ayloush: The targeting of mosques and Muslim communities is becoming a concern for Muslims around the country.
From coast to coast, mosques are being protested by various bigoted and right-wing groups. From New York, to Connecticut, to Wisconsin, to California and other places.
While American Muslims fully realize that such hate-mongering does not represent us all Americans; nevertheless, it has create a sense of uneasiness and anxiety among many. No one should be made to feel as a second class citizen in their own country.
The good news is that the response from many Christian, Jewish and other religious leaders has been phenomenal in its positiveness. All around the country, interfaith groups have organized vigils and counter protests to show support to Muslims and speak for unity and harmony.

May be that is the silver lining in this whole sad situation.
Chicago, Ill.: Thank you for speaking out as you are doing. Do you think this backlash against a wonderful project represents a genuine waning of tolerance and inclusiveness in America, or is this shameful exploitation of people's fears of those who are coded as 'other' in service of other ends (such as midterm elections)?
Hussam Ayloush: Thank you.
We are facing several factors that are playing into this manufactured situation.

- Election heat and the need to energize voters by some failed leaders. Using Muslims and Islam as a punching bag seems to help gain certain types of voters for some candidates.
- Islamophobia/Anti-Muslim bigotry and misinformation fueled by right-wing and hateful pundits and organizations. It is unfortunately a thriving business.
- Genuine confusion and lack of understanding of Islam in the shadow of major tragedies and deaths caused by 9-11 attacks and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq
- A struggling economy and the search for someone to blame. Some in our country like to blame immigrants, Muslims, Latinos, ... etc.
Columbia, Md.: Recently the Reform Jewish Movement, of which I am a member, sent out a message welcoming the planned construction of the Cordoba House Mosque. Along with Mayor Bloomberg, I remember a time and stories that I heard from my parents that Jewish people were excluded from buying homes in neighborhoods or joining social clubs. I understand that this is a sensitive issue; however, in our religion we were taught "to welcome the stranger" and that transcends throughout the Bible. Are you getting support from other groups of the Jewish faith obviously not counting the ADL?
Hussam Ayloush: With the exception of the shameful stance taken by ADL and the Wiesenthal Center (both have betrayed their claimed mission), the Jewish community has honorably and strongly stood in support of the right of Muslims to freely worship. Of course, this is not surprising from a community that has for long defended and struggled for civil rights for all in America. It is not surprising, but it was certainly reassuring.

This has not gone unnoticed by the rest of the Muslim community and I pray that it will lead to a continuation and strengthening of our cooperation as two of America's small religious minority to protect our Constitution, promote mutual understanding, and expose the few bigots in each of our communities.

Chicago, Ill.: Under the U.S. constitution they have a right to build the mosque; however, I wonder if the freedoms that are being used to justify the building are shared. If the situation were reversed how many Islamic countries would allow a Christian or Jewish religious facility to be built near a "holy" place? The problem is that has come across as "yes, we probably wouldn't allow you to build but you must allow us to build as that what your law says."
Hussam Ayloush: I share your concerns. We would like to see our American religious freedom practiced all over the world. However, the rights of American Muslims and all other Americans should never be conditioned on the basis of how other countries treat their religions minorities.

Our Constitution stands on its own merit. If anything, we hope that the upholding of our religious freedoms and harmony can set us as a world's role model for other countries to follow.
Miami, Fla.: Why hasn't anyone pointed out that the Pentagon has a "mosque" where prayers have been held since 9/11?
Hussam Ayloush: There are prayers held in the Pentagon, in Congress, at army bases, and in various government buildings and facilities. Those prayers are held by Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and others who serve in those facilities. The separation of Church and State was to protect each from the interference of the other, but not to restrict or forbid any practice of religion.

By the way, there has always been mosques and thousands of Muslims who reside near Ground Zero.
Gaithersburg, Md.: Dear Mr. Ayloush, Former Republican leader Newt Gingrich has called those who support the building of the mosque two blocks from the former WTC "Nazis." The ahistorical and misplaced use of this term is shocking, particularly from someone who is trained in history. Alas, there seems to be some resonance in the American electorate. Do you think that the GOP's efforts to exploit this issue to their electoral advantage will affect the voting behavior of Muslims in America? Could it affect or change outcomes in places with large Muslim populations? Thanks for your thoughts.
Hussam Ayloush: Sadly, the silence of the majority within the Republican Party is causing the party to be labeled as extremist. Such anti-Muslim rhetoric might be politically beneficial on the short term; however, on the long run, it is undermining our country's social harmony, damaging our world standing, and undercutting the credibility of the Party. Over the years, the overwhelming majority of Muslims have shifted away from the Republican Party, although many shared its fiscal and family "values" or perspective. No one want to belong to an organization that continues to make life miserable for him/her and his family.

I hope that common sense will prevail and that the republican Party will put the interests of the American people above its own short term partisan political scoring.
Washington, D.C.: No one is saying "ban all mosques" in the U.S. What they are saying is that it is showing a gross insensitivity to the victims of 9/11 to build at this particular location. The organizers don't seem to be hearing this?
Hussam Ayloush: The organizers are hearing and feeling the genuine concerns of many New Yorkers (in the midst of a lot of bigotry from others). The solution is not to let fear, misinformation and paranoia prevail. The real solution is for an honest discussion and dialogue.
I strong recommend that the organizers and NY interfaith leaders help set forums and town hall meetings so all of us can speak with one another rather that at each other. I am very confident that all genuine concerns will be addressed and explained.

New York, N.Y.: Your comments have been pretty fair minded so far, but please retract your statement that this is a "manufactured situation."
It may seem that way from your view in Los Angeles, but here in New York it is very real. Right or wrong, many of us have very strong feelings on this mosque and did so long before it became a national story. Maybe its a manufactured outrage outside the five boroughs, but here it's very real.
Hussam Ayloush: My friend, the "manufactured" part is not the one coming from genuine people. Most of us Americans, and not only Muslims in NY, are equally victimized by a profit-making industry of hatred that keeps fueling this mistrust, misinformation, and paranoia of Islam. Many innocent and well-meaning Americans are reacting to what they are being told by some media pundits and so-called experts on terrorism and Islam.

Please check out this story:
How the "ground zero mosque" fear mongering began (Salon, Aug. 16)

Syracuse, N.Y.: Thank you for this discussion. I have been following this controversy and have noticed that many people object to the Islamic Center because they feel that as a liberal country, we should not be embracing tenants of Islam such as Sharia law. Can you please explain exactly what Sharia law is, and how Sharia law functions within a non-Muslim country?
Hussam Ayloush: Shariah laws are not an issue in the building of any mosque.

For the sake of answering the question, Sharia is simply the body of laws, as well as the system of law making, that is based on the Islamic teachings with the goal of serving the well being of all people and societies. Its main purpose is to establish justice and equality. Sharia is practiced daily by American Muslims in the form of avoiding usury/loan interest, shunning alcohol and pork by-product, dealing kindly with parents, seniors, and children, giving charity to the needy, sick and homeless, ...

Like all Americans, American Muslims uphold and will continue to defend our US Constitution to the fullest extent. It is what brings us together as a nation.
Woodbridge, Va.: Will this mosque have a plan in place to identify and root out extremists who could potentially meet there to plan another attack?
Hussam Ayloush: The organizers of the mosque, like all major Muslim leaders and organizations, have continuously spoken and challenge the ideology of extremism and will continue to do so whether a mosque is built there or not. This is not only a civic duty, but also an Islamic duty under our religious teachings.
Alexandria, Va.: Sir: I think the Islamic center is not just a good idea but a GREAT idea, if it could be created as a symbol of tolerance and peace and undertake outreach projects with churches and synagogues to promote respect for life and human dignity. It could even become a worldwide center for the promotion of these values. I know that Islam at its finest stands for human dignity. We need more people of all faiths taking a stand for human beings of all faiths.
I am completely at a loss as to why my view isn't the predominant one. To my view, Lower Manhattan is the perfect place for such a center, for obvious reasons.
On the dark side: I do see a potential serious security risk, as the proposed center could become a target both for anti-Muslim and Muslim violent radicals.
All this makes me so sad. The world seems mad and is only growing madder.
Hussam Ayloush: I have faith that most others will see as you do. Let's wait for this unfortunate storm to calm down.
San Francisco, Calif.: I feel this comes down to perception. Perception of what your brand of Islam is or more specifically the brand of Islam the center would espouse. Simply saying it is moderate may not be sufficient. It would have to counter the al-Qaeda/Taliban brand of islam.
Would you share your thoughts on this.
Hussam Ayloush: You are very correct. A major part of this debate has been about perceptions, misperception and ill-intent misinformation.

As the good people of America, we are being squeezed between two extremist narratives that wish for our country and the world to be divided along religious lines. The Al-Qaeda-like extremists and the anti-Muslim bigots are the two sides of the same coin. The coin of hatred and intolerance.

Herndon, Va,.: What kind of international backlash do you think all this hatefulness aimed at mosques being built in America will ultimately have? The 51 Park cultural center is not the only Muslim community having extreme problems with building or expanding their mosques.
Hussam Ayloush: The image and credibility of America will be the first casualty if any religious community loses its right to build a place of worship.

Polls have repeatedly shown that most Muslims around the world, even those who completely disagree with our foreign policies, have strong admiration for America's values and freedoms. Many have expressed hopes to see such freedoms enjoyed in their own respective countries. I would love for us to lead by example.
Houston, Tex.: How close is "too close?" This building is several blocks away. Indeed, you cannot see Ground Zero from it.
Hussam Ayloush: Good question.
What about the mosques that are already within a few blocks from Ground Zero?
We indeed have a lot of healing to do among ourselves in America. Restricting religious rights is not a way to do it.

Dialogue, understanding, mutual respect, and fairness is a good way to begin the healing.

Miama, Fla.: There seems to be a misconception that Islam is a relative newcomer to America.
Islam has been here for more than 300 years; in the form of Muslim African slaves.
As many as 20% of African slaves were thought to be Muslim.
Hussam Ayloush: Correct.
But of course, even new religions have the same rights as the very first ones to exist in the US.

I know that you agree with that.
Cary, N.C.: I'm heartbroken to see, read, and hear comments against the building of a mosque near the site of the World Trade Centers. So many wars have been fought between and amongst people of faith, yet it still surprises me that people believe any certain religion itself is contemptible.
People of many different faiths have committed violence on a large scale, yet I would hope that we can see that fringe practitioners do not represent the heart and soul of any faith.
I support the building of any place of worship as a fitting monument to the enduring love, acceptance, and communal celebration of our American ideals.
Hussam Ayloush: Many other Americans share your kind feelings and views. Many have not had the chance to think deeper about it.
Purcellville, Va.: Many opponents to the cultural center are citing Saudi Arabia's intolerance of Christian churches there as reason for not allowing the center here. But what about the United States being the greatest country in the world BECAUSE it's not afraid to be open and forgiving?
Hussam Ayloush: You are right.

The fact that no churches are built in Saudi Arabia or no mosques are built in the Vatican are matters that are worthy of discussing and addressing. However, it is irrelevant for this very domestic and constitutional matter. Muslims in America are not foreign aliens or visitors.

President Obama said it very well: "Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances." I could not agree more.
Chicago (different person): If I could offer a little constructive criticism:
Muslim advocates, yourself included, always stress that Islam is peaceful, that what the terrorists are doing is NOT Islamic, that anyone who holds a negative opinion about Islam is misinformed, etc. With all due respect, I think that position goes too far. There are, frankly, millions of Muslims out there who disagree about Islam's peaceful nature, who have no problem murdering Westerners, who think the Jews are evil and should be killed, and so forth. Their view of Islam is just as valid as yours. I think you guys need to be more up front about acknowledging that dark side to your religion, and not simply dismissing it as the same bad apple element that's present in any religion or system. I'm not aware of any Buddhists, for example, running around with explosive vests and blowing themselves up in marketplaces or on buses. Thanks.
Hussam Ayloush: Thank you for this important question.

Extremism and fanaticism are a human phenomenon, and not an Islamic one. Every religion or political ideology has had to deal with such occurrence.

The majority of the over 1.6 billion Muslims reject the ideology of the extremists and are doing their best to isolate them and expose them. As the President correctly pointed:
"Al Qaeda has killed more Muslims than people of any other religion, and that list includes innocent Muslims who were killed on 9/11."

Unfortunately, some Americans (I don't mean you) choose to indict all American Muslims and the religion of Islam itself for the acts of a few fanatics. This is bigotry, its guilt by association and it is un-American.

As for the issue of violent suicide attackers, I suggest reading the book "Dying to Win" by Professor Robert Pape. Very enlightening.
Hussam Ayloush: Thank you everyone for your considerate and intelligent questions. I really appreciate the time you took to be part of this chat.
If you have more questions, please contact me at hayloush@cair.com
or visit www.cair.com to learn more about CAIR and its work.

Best regards and best wishes for a stronger and more united America.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Jon Stewart: Exposing the double talk on FOX

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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The GOP's new McCarthyism against Muslims

The GOP's new McCarthyism against Muslims

The GOP’s new McCarthyism against Muslims

7:23 am August 17, 2010, by Cynthia Tucker
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

What has happened to the leadership of the Republican Party? Are there no longer any statesmen/women in the GOP? Does the party have any leading figures who believe in the Bill of Rights?

The GOP’s leadership has been taken over by a group of shrill demagogues who cozy up to birthers, talk of rescinding the 14th amendment and want to deny peaceful American Muslims the right to practice their religion. In terms of decency and principle, this season may mark the lowest ebb for the Republican Party since the McCarthy era of the 1950s.

There is no divisive issue the party won’t exploit, no wedge it won’t use as it seeks votes and tries to separate the unum into pluribus. If you listen to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), head of the Republican Senate Campaign Committee, gleefully talk about exploiting the emotions surrounding the so-called 9/11 mosque in New York, you can see how low the party’s leadership has sunk...

Olbermann: There is no ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ - msnbc tv - Countdown with Keith Olbermann - msnbc

Monday, August 16, 2010

At the Death Camps, Muslim Leaders Grapple With Jews’ Pain

By A.J. Goldmann
Published August 11, 2010
The Jewish Daily FORWARD

Krakow, Poland — It was a perfect summer day at the Dachau concentration camp. The clear skies and pleasant breeze seemed almost offensive. And there, beneath the main monument, a bronze sculpture of writhing bodies intermeshed with barbed wire, was an uncommon sight: a group of Muslims leaders prostrate in prayer.

At the end of the service, prayer leader Muzammil Siddiqi, imam of the Islamic Society of Orange County, California, offered up an additional prayer: “We pray to God that this will not happen to the Jewish people or to any people anymore.”

Siddiqi was one of eight American Muslim leaders on a study tour to Dachau and Auschwitz that was co-sponsored by a German think tank and the Center for Interreligious Understanding, a New Jersey-based interfaith dialogue group. The delegation’s sole female member was Laila Muhammad, daughter of the late American Muslim leader W.D. Muhammad and granddaughter of Elijah Muhammad, the late leader of the Nation of Islam...

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Read: Denying the Holocaust is immoral and un-Islamic

Obama's Islamic-Center Stance: Why the GOP Shouldn't Run Against It

By Mark Halperin
Monday, Aug. 16, 2010

Dear Republican Party:

Your moment is now.

This weekend, President Obama defended the right of Muslims to build a community center and mosque two short blocks from Ground Zero, despite cries of insensitivity from some New Yorkers and accusations of mischief from some pundits. This finally gives you an opportunity to add a powerful national-security cudgel to the message of economic woe you have been pushing as the midterm election approaches...

Read more.

How the "ground zero mosque" fear mongering began

By Justin Elliott
Monday, Aug 16, 2010

In short, there is no good reason that the Cordoba House project should have been a major national news story, let alone controversy. And yet it has become just that, dominating the political conversation for weeks and prompting such a backlash that, according to a new poll, nearly 7 in 10 Americans now say they oppose the project. How did the Cordoba House become so toxic, so fast?

In a story last week, the New York Times, which framed the project in a largely positive, noncontroversial light last December, argued that it was cursed from the start by "public relations missteps." But this isn't accurate. To a remarkable extent, a Salon review of the origins of the story found, the controversy was kicked up and driven by Pamela Geller, a right-wing, viciously anti-Muslim, conspiracy-mongering blogger, whose sinister portrayal of the project was embraced by Rupert Murdoch's New York Post...

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Protect the human rights of migrant workers in the Middle East

The abuse of migrant workers is a shameful reality in many Middle Eastern countries and it is often an accepted practice by many people in those societies.

It is a shame that the area where Prophet Muhammad preached equality, fairness, and kindness to our workers will allow such injustice and inhumanity.

Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of God be upon him, said, “Your servants/workers are your brothers whom God the most High has placed under your authority. Therefore, a person who has a brother under his authority, should feed him out of that which he eats himself and should dress him with the same kind of clothes which he wears himself; he should not assign work to him which is beyond his capacity, and if you do so, then help him in his work” (Bukhari collection).

Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of God be upon him, also said, “When your cook or servant brings your meal to you, if you do not invite him to sit with you and eat, at least give him some of the meal to take. After all, it was he who prepared it.” (Bukhari Collection)
Everyone can make a difference. First, make sure you treat such workers fairly and as your equal; the way you would like to be treated. Then make a commitment to become vocal in your circle of friends and family against such abuses and those who engage in it.

He also said, “I will be the opponent of three types of people on the Day of Judgment,” and he listed one of them as “one who hires a worker, but does not pay him his right wages owed to him after fulfilling his work.” (Bukhari collection)

For more info, visit:

- Workers Rights in Islam - A Khutba/sermon by Hussam Ayloush
- Workers’ Rights – A Cornerstone of Social Justice in Islam - By Hussam Ayloush

- Interfaith Worker Justice

Please watch this powerful video prepared by the group Migrant Rights .

From the video post page:

For too long, migrant workers have been an invisible majority in the Middle East. They are rarely discussed in the media and receive little protection from the governments of host countries, many of whom have no clear policies for safeguarding their welfare. Please join our struggle for migrant rights in the region: http://www.migrant-rights.org

Video made by: Eric Epstein http://najork.net/
Written, Researched & Voiced by: Esra'a Al Shafei http://www.migrant-rights.org
Original Music: http://skeletonsuit.com/
Hand-drawn Animation: Jaron Eugene Newton http://jaron-eugene.blogspot.com/
CG Elements: Zach Shukan http://shukanimator.com/

Reporter's Notebook: Ramadan is a true test of spirituality, faith

By Mona Shadia, mona.shadia@latimes.com; Daily Pilot
August 10, 2010

I will be among about 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide who will begin fasting from sunrise to sunset Wednesday.

We will observe Ramadan by praying during the night and fasting during the day for the next month.

Ramadan, Muslims' holy month, is an exciting time for me. You'd think that with no food or water all day, I'd be upset and grumpy.

But the opposite is true.

Fasting during Ramadan is the fourth of the five pillars of Islam.

Ramadan isn't just about abstaining from food and water, it's about exercising discipline, self-restraint and generosity, said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Greater Los Angeles Area Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations.

"It's our month of the year where we focus on renewing our spirituality and our faith through acts of worship as well as acts of good deeds and good work toward fellow human beings and the larger society," Ayloush said.

I was taught to fast when I was just 6 years old. My uncle, Gamal Mandour, one of my mother's six brothers, was the first to tell me about Ramadan, the purpose of it and why we fast.

Khalo (uncle) Gamal wanted to simplify things for me, a child who didn't exactly understand spirituality.

Before actually getting me to fast, he wanted to prepare me mentally. He first told me that it's what God wants us to do and it's to teach us to be kind and good to others. To teach us to refrain from envy, jealousy, anger and selfishness.

Khalo Gamal said, When you feel hungry and thirsty, think of all the people and children who have no food, no water, no family and nothing at all.

Then the training began...

Jon Stewart Takes On the Anti-Mosques Bigots (Must watch video)

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Monday, August 02, 2010

The Chosen One - Maher Zain

The song - The Chosen One - is inspired by Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. Maher Zain and Awakening Records felt they had to respond after the recent attacks on prophet Muhammad through cartoons and facebook. The result is this music video. It's a small token in educating the true character our beloved Prophet Muhammad.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

The ADL Defames its Jewish Heritage

Kamran Pasha
August 1, 2010
The Huffington Post

The ADL, which was founded in 1913 as a powerful voice against religious discrimination in America, has over the past decade become increasingly xenophobic toward the Muslim community, which its leaders seem to view as a threat to Jews due to its lack of support for Israel. As a Christian friend who works in the Obama Administration lamented to me recently, the ADL has in essence become the "Pro-Defamation League" when it comes to Islam and Muslims.

The recent comments by Abraham Foxman, National Director of the ADL, against the proposed Muslim community center in New York are the latest in a long line of incidents where members of the ADL have promoted bigotry and discrimination against Arabs and Muslims. In 1993, the ADL illegally spied on American citizens who had spoken out in sympathy with Palestinians, generating a watch list of 10,000 names of private citizens and over 600 groups, and then selling the list to South African intelligence agents...

"Do not do unto others what you would not have others do unto you."

To Mr. Foxman and the rest of the ADL leadeship, I ask if in your hearts you would want people to accuse innocent Jews of being enemies of the state? Would you want Jews to accept vilification of their entire religion if a handful of Jews ever did something wrong? Would you want Jews to tacitly accept the lies that bigots had projected on to them? And finally, would you want Jews to be forced to shut down their synagogues because of the misguided passions of a mob?

Would you want this done to Jews?

If the answer is no, then I ask as your Muslim brother that you follow the wisdom of Rabbi Hillel and the sages of Judaism.

Do not do the same hateful thing to my people.

Stephen Prothero: How the Anti-Defamation League lost the moral high ground (CNN)

August 1, 2010
By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

You would think that most Jewish leaders in America would have a special sensitivity to the vitriol pouring out against Muslims concerning the proposed Islamic community center and mosque near ground zero.

You would think they would hear eerie echoes of 1930s Germany in the shouting down and silencing of an eleven-year-old girl at one of the hearings of the commission charged with determining whether the building in question deserved landmark status. You would think they would rush to the defense of a minority religion attacked for, among other things, conspiring to take over their country through the imposition of religious law.

If so, you would be wrong...

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