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, December 27, 2010

Hussam Ayloush for 71st Assembly District Delegate to the CA Democratic Party

Assalaamu Alaykum/Greetings of peace!

I am excited to be running for 71st Assembly District Delegate to the CA Democratic Party (Not as an Assembly Member)

This race will be very competitive, to win, I need your vote and help, if you live in the 71st CA Assembly District!

Please join me at the 71st Assembly District Delegate Elections and VOTE to send me to the Democratic State Convention as your delegate.

What:     Elect Hussam Ayloush as a Delegate to the CA Democratic Party
When:    Saturday, January 8, 2011
               Voting: 10:00 AM – 2 PM (Registration closes promptly at 12 noon and then the election begins; please arrive by 11 am at the latest)
Where:   Friends Sports Grill
              31911 Dove Canyon, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA
              Cross-streets: Plano & Trabuco

AD71 includes the cities of Corona, Norco, Eastvalle, Mission Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita, Coto de Caza, Tustin Foothills, and parts of Tustin and Orange).

For over 12 years, I have served as the Executive Director of the Greater Los Angeles Area Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA)*.  I serve on the board of Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ)*, a national interfaith group that strives for the rights of low-wage workers.  I also serve on the board of ACCESS California*, an organization that provides social services to immigrants and low-income families.  (*groups listed for identification purposes; listing does not constitute an endorsement)

If elected, I will ensure that our community’s voice and issues continues to be heard in the California Democratic Party.

I am running to promote our shared ideals and goals:
  • Empower and increase involvement of our community in the CA Democratic Party
  • Protection of Civil Liberties & Combating Hate Crimes
  • Increase diversity within the Democratic Party
  • Immigrant and Worker's Rights
  • Quality Education for All
  • Economic Justice for All
  • Advocate for policies that promote peace and justice, here and abroad.

How to Vote:
· You must have been a registered Democrat living in 71st Assembly District as of October 18th, 2010 in order to vote (unless you turned 18 after that date).
· If unsure of your assembly district, please go to www.assembly.ca.gov  and then click on the "Find My District" link (on the left, third from the top).
· You will sign-in at the voting site and be given a ballot with instructions.
· Pay a requested donation of $5 to the CDP; however, this is optional, and may be waived by checking the “financial hardship” box
· You are not required to stay for the entire meeting. You can vote and leave or stay for the entire meeting.

If you can come out and vote, or for more information, please email hussam@ayloush.com

Visit: www.hussamayloush.blogspot.com for more information

GOP leaders support terrorist group (I guess it is all subjective)

Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, December 22, 2010

PARIS - A group of prominent U.S. Republicans associated with homeland security told a forum of cheering Iranian exiles here Wednesday that President Obama's policy toward Iran amounts to futile appeasement that will never persuade Tehran to abandon its nuclear projects.

The Americans - former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, former secretary of homeland security Tom Ridge, former White House homeland security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend and former attorney general Michael Mukasey - demanded that Obama instead take the controversial Mujaheddin-e Khalq (MEK) opposition group off the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations and incorporate it into efforts to overturn the mullah-led government in Tehran...

The four GOP figures appeared at a rally organized by the French Committee for a Democratic Iran, a pressure group formed to support MEK...

The group, the largest and most active Iranian exile organization, was added to the list in 1997 as part of an effort by President Bill Clinton's administration to reach out to Tehran. It has been maintained since then, apparently to avoid antagonizing the Iranian leadership while the United States fought wars in Iraq and Afghanistan...

Read More

Muslim-Americans volunteer to serve on Christmas Day

By: Kimberly Craig
DETROIT (WXYZ) - Early Christmas morning, hundreds of Muslim-Americans turned out to help their Christian friends by doing the volunteer work that they would normally do. Muslims say this is a way to allow Christians to celebrate the Holiday by stepping in to provide meals to seniors and distributing toys to needy children.

The volunteers began the day at the Community Access Center on W. Vernor in southwest Detroit, and Saturday's effort came out of an interfaith collaboration by the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan and the Jewish Community Relations Council. This year since Christmas falls on the Jewish Sabbath, the need was greater than ever to have Muslim-Americans help deliver the toys and food to Detroit neighborhoods.

Many of the toys being delivered to families today were donated by the organization known as Jimmy's Kids.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Is the Government Spying on You? (MSNBC)

Contractors behaving badly mean headaches for US

AP, 12/19/2010

WASHINGTON (AP) - At two in the morning on Sept. 9, 2005, five DynCorp International security guards assigned to Afghan President Hamid Karzai's protective detail returned to their compound drunk, with a prostitute in tow. Less than a week later, three of these same guards got drunk again, this time in the VIP lounge of the Kabul airport while awaiting a flight to Thailand.

"They had been intoxicated, loud and obnoxious," according to an internal company report of the incident, which noted that Afghanistan's deputy director for elections and a foreign diplomat were also in the lounge. "Complaints were made regarding the situation." DynCorp fired the three guards.
Such episodes represent the headaches that U.S. contractors can cause in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. They are indispensable to the State Department's mission overseas, handling security, transportation, construction, food service and more. But when hired hands behave badly - or break the law - they cast a cloud over the American presence.

Documents obtained by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act describe previously undisclosed offenses committed by more than 200 contract employees in Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries between 2004 and 2008. They were working under a broad State Department security services contract shared by DynCorp of Falls Church, Va., Triple Canopy of Reston, Va., and the company formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide - Xe Services of Moyock, N.C.

Most of the infractions, which include excessive drinking, drug use, sexual misconduct, and mishandling weapons, were violations of corporate and U.S. policies that probably went unnoticed by ordinary Afghans and Iraqis. But other offenses played out in public, undermining U.S. efforts in both countries and raising questions about how carefully job candidates are screened...

Read full article

The Great Islamophobic Crusade

Dec. 20, 2010
CBS News
Max Blumenthal: Meet the Bizarre Cabal Behind an Increasingly Paranoid Crusade

(CBS)  Max Blumenthal is a writing fellow for the Nation Institute and author of the bestselling book Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement That Shattered the Party (Nation Books).  This piece originally appeared on TomDispatch.

Nine years after 9/11, hysteria about Muslims in American life has gripped the country.

With it has gone an outburst of arson attacks on mosques, campaigns to stop their construction, and the branding of the Muslim-American community, overwhelmingly moderate, as a hotbed of potential terrorist recruits. The frenzy has raged from rural Tennessee to New York City, while in Oklahoma, voters even overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure banning the implementation of Sharia law in American courts (not that such a prospect existed). This campaign of Islamophobia wounded President Obama politically, as one out of five Americans have bought into a sustained chorus of false rumors about his secret Muslim faith. And it may have tainted views of Muslims in general; an August 2010 Pew Research Center poll revealed that, among Americans, the favorability rating of Muslims had dropped by 11 points since 2005.

Read full article

5 revelations from the Post’s ‘Monitoring America’ investigation

By Liz Goodwin

The FBI is assembling a massive database on thousands of Americans, many of whom have not been accused of any crime, the Washington Post's Dana Priest and William Arkin report. The reporters' latest look at the country's ballooning national security system focuses on the role that local agencies -- often staffed by people with little to no counter-terrorism training -- have played in combating terrorism since 2001.

Here are five striking revelations in their piece:

1. The FBI's Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative, or SAR, currently contains 161,948 suspicious activity files, into which authorities can put information they've gathered about the people at the center of the files: employment history, financial documents, phone numbers, photos. In many cases, the people in the files have not been accused of any crime but have attracted the suspicions of a local cop, FBI agent or even fellow citizen. The files have led to five arrests but no convictions, the FBI says. Some of the files are unclassified so that local police agencies and even businesses can submit reports on anyone they deem suspicious.

2. The Department of Homeland Security does not know how much it spends in funding state fusion centers, which synthesize security information from all state agencies and feed information to SAR. But since 2001, the department has doled out $31 billion to states and localities for domestic security initiatives.

3. Local officials at these fusion centers are tasked with understanding terrorism, but have little or no training. To fill the void, self-styled experts with fairly extreme views on the scope of the Muslim terrorist threat are asked to come in and train local authorities, the Post reports. Professed ex-terrorist Walid Shoebat told a group at the first annual South Dakota Fusion Center Conference in Sioux Falls this year that they should monitor local Muslim student groups and mosques and try to tap their phones. "You can find out a lot of information that way," he said.

National intelligence officials told the Post they preferred that people with "evidence-based" approaches to Islam were lecturing instead, but that no guidelines are in place to determine the qualifications of a given speaker.

4. The localities are often left without guidance from the Department of Homeland Security, which can lead to confusion about the counter-terrorism actions they're supposed to be carrying out. Virginia's fusion center named historically black colleges as "potential" terrorism hubs; Maryland State Police infiltrated local groups that lobbied for bike lanes and human rights; and a contractor in Pennsylvania writing an intelligence bulletin flagged meetings of the Tea Party Patriots Coalition and environmental activists.

5. Many states and towns are taking the unprecedented amounts of money handed out to fight terrorists and are using it instead to fight crime. "We have our own terrorists, and they are taking lives every day," Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin  said.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

WAGE THEFT: The Crime Wave No One Talks About

Wage Theft is the illegal underpayment or non-payment of workers' wages. It affects millions of workers each year, often forcing them to choose between paying the rent or putting food on the table. Wage Theft is all around us. It robs from the government's tax coffers, resulting in cutbacks of vital services. Wage Theft puts ethical employers at a competitive disadvantage.

Help end this injustice which heavily impacts low-wage workers and immigrants.

To learn more about wage theft and what you can do to end it, visit:

CAIR-SFBA Exec. Director Zahra Billoo Discusses Plan to Target American Muslims (MSNBC 'Countdown')

Rep. Peter King, D-N.Y., announced that he wanted to open a House inquiry into the radicalization of the Muslim community in America. CAIR's San Francisco Bay Area Executive Director Zahra Billoo appears on MSNBC's "Coundown" to discusses King's plan to target American Muslims.


King's claims that American Muslims are not doing enough to support national security and law enforcement agencies are contradicted by FBI Director Mueller, who on April 23, 2008, told the U.S. House Judiciary Committee: "I re-affirm the fact that 99.9 percent of Muslim-Americans or Sikh-Americans, Arab-Americans are every bit as patriotic as anybody else in this room, and that many of our cases are a result of the cooperation from the Muslim community in the United States."

At the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on March 25, 2009, Director Mueller said the Muslim community "has been tremendously supportive and worked very closely with [the FBI] in a number of instances around the country."

In a 2003 interview with The Minaret magazine, Mueller said: "I would like to thank the Muslim Americans for their support on the war against terrorism and working with the FBI around the country as well as state and local law enforcement."

In 2007, CAIR called on Republican leaders to repudiate remarks by Rep. King in which he said "we have too many mosques in this country." The Democratic National Committee (DNC) condemned King's statements, calling them "deplorable."

SEE: Rep. King: "Too Many Mosques" (Video)

King has in the past claimed that the vast majority of mosques in his state and nationwide are being run by "radicals" and called for racial profiling of Muslims in airports.

(Note: King has taken political donations from members of a New York mosque he claims is a hotbed of radicalism. A Newsday article stated: "Rep. Peter King is attempting to link his political opponent to men he calls 'radical' Muslim leaders on Long Island, but federal records show the congressman accepted thousands of dollars last year in campaign contributions from some of the same donors.")

In 2004, King said that "85 percent" of American Muslim community leaders are "an enemy living amongst us" and that "no [American] Muslims" cooperate in the war on terror. He made these claims despite the fact that American Muslims consistently condemn terrorism and work to protect national security.

SEE: CAIR's Anti-Terrorism Campaigns

During a 2008 hearing of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing & Terrorism Risk Assessment, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) challenged King's criticism of an advertising campaign in New York subway cars designed to educate the public about Islam. Rep. Pascrell said: "I am deeply disappointed in any public official or media outlet that would use harsh rhetoric against this ad campaign which simply seeks to answer people's questions about Islam."

Friday, December 10, 2010

Islamic 'Pipeline to Extremism' Turns Out to Be Mostly FBI Set-Ups

The railroading of suspects into the justice system is reminiscent of tactics used by the FBI and prosecutors during the era of McCarthyism and COINTELPRO.
Photo Credit: cliff1066™
The recent rash of charges against Somali-Americans on “conspiracy to provide material support” to al-Shabaab, a Somali rebel group on the U.S. terrorism list, seems designed to send a clear message that any support for the militants will lead to criminal prosecution. It also demonstrates the ubiquitous presence of law enforcement in these communities.

The Obama administration must be careful, however, not to play into the hands of jihadists by overreacting or seeming to unfairly target Somali immigrants.

The recent arrest of Mohamed Osman Mahmoud, a 19-year-old Oregonian of Somali descent, is a case in point. Like other inept would-be terrorists who fell for recent FBI sting operations, Mahmoud was obviously incapable of pulling off any complex operation without the help of the FBI. His attempts to contact international jihadists had failed. FBI agents then contacted him, built the bomb, and provided the suspect with money to rent an apartment. His indictment states Mahmoud wanted to commit an act of terrorism since he was 15 years old. Although Mahmoud’s alleged views are deplorable, merely fantasizing about jihad is not a crime.


The media and policymakers argue that this is a process of “radicalization” that turns self-identified radicals into jihadists. The New York Police Department’s much-quoted 2006 analysis of radicalization, Radicalization of the West: The Homegrown Threat, argued that there are four identifiable stages (pre-radicalization, self-identification, indoctrination, jihadization) in the process of radicalization. Borrowing mainly from the European experience, the report ascribes “jihadist or jihadi-Salafi ideology” as what mainly “motivates young men and women, born or living in the West, to carry out autonomous jihad via acts of terrorism against their host countries.”

However, this assumption does not apply to all would-be militants. Some, like the Somali youth who joined al-Shabaab in 2008, may have been motivated by nationalism rather than anti-Americanism.
Analyzing the Mahmoud case in the context of the NYPD theory, the teen was only at the second stage -- self-identification. As the NYPD report indicates, there is no formula for determining who will move from “self-identification” to “jihadization.” Indeed, according to the report, both “indoctrination” and “jihadization” require close contact and support from spiritual and operational leaders. It seems, therefore, that the FBI became Mahmoud’s operational leader.

Another recent report, the American Security Project’s Enemies Among Us: Domestic Radicalization After September 11, focuses on the psychological motivations of individuals. The report uses adjectives such as ‘bewildering” and “unpredictable.” It argues that the only commonality identified is the eventual exposure of the so-called radicals to “radical Islam” at mosques, the Internet, or through friends and recruiters. “Alienation” is considered a major factor, but it is not clear why alienation turns to actual action or plans to act.

The Bipartisan Policy Center report entitled “Assessing the Terrorist Threat," released this year and timed to coincide with the 9/11 anniversary, portrays the FBI as failing to understand that these incidents were not isolated. Rather, they indicate “an embryonic terrorist radicalization and recruitment structure had been established in the U.S. homeland.” The authors argued that the FBI, and Americans in general, seem to have been lulled into a sense of complacency by polls and statistics that showed that Americans Muslims as well-off and integrated.

The media and law enforcement officials continue to refer to these cases as “terrorism,” although so far there is no record of a person of Somali descent committing an act of violent terrorism in the United States. This amorphous definition creates the impression that Somalis, in general, are a threat. In March 2009, for instance, Deputy Director of Intelligence for the National Counterterrorism Center Andrew Liepman told a Senate hearing on al-Shabaab recruitment in the United States that some Somalis were susceptible to “criminal or extremist influence” because of their background.

According to Liepman, “Among Somali-Americans, the refugee experience of fleeing a war-torn country, combined with perceived discrimination, marginalization, and frustrated expectations, as well as local criminal, familial, and clan dynamics may heighten the susceptibility of some members of these communities to criminal or extremist influences.”

At this same congressional hearing, Philip Mudd, the FBI associate executive assistant director of the National Security Branch, said that the FBI believed there were deliberate efforts to recruit young people to fight for al-Shabaab. He stated the youths seemed to be motivated by nationalism, with the desire to defend their country from an Ethiopian invasion, rather than Islamist ideology, although the appeal was based on shared Islamic identity. Mudd also indicated that socio-economic conditions such as “violent youth crime and gang subcultures, and tensions over cultural integration may have played some role in the recruitment process.”

Do these activities indicate a growing alienation and anger among the 1.5 and second generation of Somali youth growing up in the United States? The vague accusations threaten to indict thousands of otherwise law-abiding Somalis who were outraged by the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in 2006. The majority of parents and community leaders consider the United States a place of refuge from the chaos and violence that led to their flight from Somalia. They were as surprised and dismayed as other Americans when they learned that their children had joined the jihadist movement in Somalia.

Material Support

Providing “material support or resources” -- such as money, goods, personnel, and advice that can be used in terrorist activity -- to a group designated as a “foreign terrorist organization” is illegal and carries a 15-year sentence. Congress first criminalized material support in 1996 in order to deny terrorist groups with humanitarian offshoots the ability to raise funds in the United States. After 9/11, the 2001 Patriot Act broadened it to criminalize “expert advice or assistance.” In June 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the “material support” provision to include money and materials as well as “training” and “advice” -- even if for humanitarian purposes.

In August 2010, the Justice Department indicted 14 Somali-Americans on charges of providing “material support” to al-Shabaab and allegedly recruiting youth to join the militia. Twelve of the suspects from California, Minnesota, and Alabama were indicted for leaving the United States to join al-Shabaab. Six of the suspects are U.S. citizens. Attorney General Eric Holder stated that these indictments indicate the existence of a “deadly pipeline that has routed funding and fighters from cities across the United States.”

Three months later, prosecutors in San Diego charged five Somali-Americans with providing “material support” to a foreign terrorist organization. The group allegedly sent about $9,000 to al-Shabaab between 2007 and 2008, with some of the funds possibly transferred after the United States added al-Shabaab to its terrorist list in 2008. But in 2008, al-Shabaab was an insignificant threat to the international community, having emerged to resist an Ethiopian invasion supported by the Bush administration. The defendants included such community leaders as Mohamed Mohamed Mahmood, who has served as the imam of a Somali mosque for over a decade. Some of the defendants claimed that they were collecting funds for humanitarian projects in Somalia.

Also in November, prosecutors indicted a San Diego woman for allegedly sending $800 to two former Minnesota residents fighting in Somalia. The amounts sent by the defendants are minimal considering that al-Shabaab has other more lucrative funding sources including piracy in the Gulf of Aden and supporters across the oil-rich Arabian peninsula.

The “material support:” provision of the Patriot Act is already very controversial among human rights activist interested in Latin America and Asia where it has been used to deny refugee status to individuals forced to cooperate with rebel groups. This provision of law was also used to justify a recent raid on the homes of 14 peace activists (non-Somalis) who oppose U.S. foreign policy in Latin America and Israel/Palestine. The railroading of suspects into the justice system is reminiscent of tactics used by the FBI and prosecutors during the era of McCarthyism and COINTELPRO, both of which persecuted perceived “radicals” such as Paul Robeson, W.E.B. DuBois, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Changing Directions

These so-called counter-radicalization policies focus on individuals rather than structures, symptoms rather than root causes. A more proactive domestic approach would include policies that prevent radicalization instead of focusing on arresting and prosecuting perpetrators. The aggressive and overt policing and prosecution of marginal cases may deter some, but has the strong potential to breed anti-Muslim and anti-American sentiments at home and abroad. The retaliatory arson attack on the mosque, where the Portland bombing suspect allegedly worshipped, is but one example.

There is an urgent need to change direction by establishing “pipelines to integration” to counter the efforts to establish a pipeline to extremism. Such pipelines could include tackling poverty and unemployment by expanding English as a Second Language classes, after-school programs, job training, and citizenship programs in Somali communities. These, in turn, would engage the youth in positive alternatives to the lure of extremism, gangs, drug dealing, and prostitution. In addition, integrating Somalis into the larger community, while respecting their cultural heritage and traditions, requires cultural competency training for law enforcement personnel, teachers, and other public officials.

Somali immigrant youth, often children of immigrants themselves, are in danger of losing connection with their ethnic heritage and values. This dilemma of being neither American nor Somali leads them to search for identity and belonging that some satisfy by turning to religion, following a radical preacher, or in rare cases joining a jihadist group. The overwhelming majority of Somalis, even those who oppose U.S. policies abroad, do not join jihadist groups. For those few who do, it is the exposure to particular personal and communicative networks that turn radical thought into violent action. Trying to identify and neutralize the few youth who attempt to join al-Shabaab does not even begin to deal with the problem.

Francis NJubi Nesbitt is a Foreign Policy in Focus contributor. He is the author of Race for Sanctions: African Americans against Apartheid, 1946-1994 and is currently completing a book on U.S. foreign policies in the Horn of Africa.

The FBI vs. Muslims - what went wrong

The FBI is critically important to our country's war on terror - not in Afghanistan or Pakistan, but right here at home. It is tasked with finding the homegrown terrorists who mean us harm. I know a former regional director of the organization personally. He is utterly conscientious and concerned not only for America's security but also for the integrity of his venerable institution. These days, America's domestic security is very much wrapped up in its dealings with the American Muslim community. What is evident is that the Muslim community and the FBI need to develop a partnership and work toward a common goal.

But if developments in Irvine are to be believed, the FBI has been the one entrapped by its own bungled attempts to entrap supposedly "amenable" members of the Irvine Muslim community.
The affair, recently reported by the Washington Post, dates back to 2006. A convicted felon, Craig Monteilh, who was already an FBI informant, was persuaded (financially and otherwise) to spy on the local mosque's worshipers. Ultimately, Monteilh, who used the name Farouk al-Aziz, managed to get a couple of worshipers to agree to join him in bombing a mall. Unknown to al-Aziz, however, they went directly to the imam of the mosque, who reported al-Aziz to the authorities.

Stories of this nature will continue to surface from time to time amid the nationwide paranoid clamor for some kind of surveillance. They serve to illustrate the slippery slope upon which we appear to have placed ourselves. Moreover, they underscore the kind of unplanned success to which a nearly vanquished al Qaeda is still able to lay claim. Its members must surely be smirking as American society exposes hairline fractures that herald further erosions of liberty, which are antithetical to the country's fundamental values. Weakening these pillars of our democracy fulfills the most desired nihilist objectives of al Qaeda and its ilk.

A 2010 joint study by Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy and the University of North Carolina identified the positive impact of America's mosques on tamping down tendencies for impressionable young Muslims to become radicalized. The Irvine story provides an affirming data point for this analysis and demonstrates a poverty of intelligence at the FBI. The agency failed to engage the Muslim community through its mosques to better leverage their leaders to continue the good work. Instead, not only is there a concerted effort at furtive infiltration but also a driving away of the very leaders that might have proved a valuable asset in the authorities' much-needed efforts to prevent homegrown terrorism.

What is doubly disturbing, if al-Aziz's accounts are to be believed, is that the FBI handler he worked with told him, "Islam is a threat to national security." If this is indeed more than an isolated sentiment, then it undermines government assertions of the importance of partnering with U.S. Muslim communities (who must be forgiven for responding cynically).

It would be tragic if the opportunity to work together to prevent radicalism is lost through such shortsighted attempts to entrap mosque members.

M. Salahuddin Khan is the author of "Sikander" ( www.sikanderbook.com).

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/12/08/EDGI1GNNDT.DTL#ixzz17jMTv09w

Bigoted Sign of the Day: "No Muslims Inside"

Alabama Store Owner’s Sign Reminds That BBQ Restaurants Are “Safest” Because Of Lack Of Muslims

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Calif. Mosque Mole Erodes Trust Between Muslims, FBI

Mara Gay

(Dec. 6) -- When Farouk al-Aziz allegedly tried to incite members of a California mosque to blow up a mall, they reported him to the FBI, but nothing happened.

Apparently, that's because al-Aziz was actually Craig Monteilh, a paid FBI informant and ex-convict sent to infiltrate the mosque and expose a potential terrorist. But the FBI's attempt to spy on the mosque was exposed instead, in a case that has imperiled relations between the agency and American Muslims.

Craig Monteilh, who says he infiltrated Southern California mosques as an FBI informant
Reed Saxon, AP
Craig Monteilh, who says he infiltrated Southern California mosques as an FBI informant and wants to clear his name of suspicions he might have promoted terrorist activities, talks about his experiences in Irvine, Calif., on Feb. 26, 2009.
It has also sparked tough questions from critics who say the FBI's tactics in Muslim communities can sometimes amount to entrapment.

"The question is this: Would these alleged 'plots' have taken place without active FBI involvement?" Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told AOL News today. "And too often we're seeing that they are really manufactured by the FBI and used as a way to draw in people who may not otherwise have chosen to do any kind of action on their own."

In the California case, reported by The Washington Post this weekend, the FBI paid Monteilh -- a convicted forger -- $177,000 over more than a year to help build a terror case against Ahmadullah Sais Niazi, a member of an Irvine mosque. But the case fell apart when Niazi and others in the mosque became so concerned by Monteilh's comments about violent jihad that they reported him to the FBI and even sought a restraining order against him.

"They said Farouk had told them he had access to weapons and that they should blow up a mall," Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations -- Los Angeles, told the Post. "They were convinced this man was a terrorist."

In September, the Justice Department dropped the case against Niazi, who allegedly had been caught on tape by Monteilh agreeing to blow up buildings, according to the Post. And now, to make matters worse for the agency, Monteilh is speaking out publicly about his story, claiming FBI agents taught him how to entrap Muslims and made offensive statements about Islam.

The FBI declined to comment specifically about the Monteilh case but said accusations that the agency is targeting Muslim communities are false.

"The FBI does not investigate religion," Laura Eimiller, an FBI spokeswoman in Los Angeles, told AOL News today. "To suggest that the FBI initiated an investigation based on an ethnicity or a religion is ludicrous."

But Alicia McWilliams, whose nephew David Williams was one of the four men convicted this year in a plot to bomb synagogues in the Bronx, N.Y., said the FBI uses entrapment against people from vulnerable parts of society. McWilliams said FBI informants targeted her nephew because he was young, black, "down on his luck" and impressionable, and offered to pay for his brother's liver transplant if he agreed to take part in a plot.

"You can't go bearing gifts into impoverished communities," she told AOL News today. "They're using criminals to create criminals."

Robert Turner, a law professor at the University of Virginia and the associate director of the school's Center for National Security Law, said the FBI likely had reason to believe that Naizi was up to something and asked Monteilh to monitor him, not the entire mosque.

Turner said the FBI is aware of how important it is to have good relationships with American Muslims. "The FBI knows that patriotic Muslims are in a situation in which they may help us prevent the next 9/11," he told AOL News.

He said Monteilh -- who was arrested on grand-theft auto charges after the FBI cut its ties with him -- is probably lying about the FBI's views on Islam. "It sounds to me that [Monteilh] said, 'What can I say that will really embarrass the FBI?' I don't find this at all credible."

Still, the FBI's tactics have continued to attract controversy. Last month, for example, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a 19-year-old Somali-born American, was arrested for allegedly driving a van full of explosives -- supplied by FBI agents -- to a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Portland, Ore. And already, Mohamud's attorneys have said they will likely use entrapment as a defense.

Lynne Jackson, the co-founder of Project Salam, a legal advocacy group for Muslims, said the use of covert informants in Islamic communities has become a civil liberties issue akin to the Red Scare during the Cold War.

"It's prejudice against Muslims. It's like the 1950s, except that instead of communism it's Muslims," she said. "The government is going after Muslims because of what they think even when they haven't done anything."

CAIR's Hooper said the FBI's use of informants is eroding trust between American Muslims and law enforcement.

"The bottom line is that the FBI needs to have open lines of communication to the American Muslim community so we can work together against anybody who may threaten our nation's safety and security," he said.

But, he added, "as long as American Muslims feel that they are being singled out as an entire community for suspicion, it chills the atmosphere."

Wajahat Ali: Time for FBI to stop spying on American Muslims (The Guardian)

Time for FBI to stop spying on American Muslims
Wajahat Ali
The Guardian, 12/7/2010

The recent arrest of the potential Christmas tree bomber is reflective of the FBI's myopic strategy of using glitzy, expensive sting operations and dubious confidential informants to further erode Muslim American relations instead of concentrating on effective partnerships to combat radicalisation. The FBI is promoting the arrest of Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a 19-year-old Somali-born teenager accused of attempting to detonate a car bomb at a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony, as a triumph of effective law enforcement. Instead, the operation reeks of gratuitous self-adulation, requiring 6 months of time and precious expenditures to "uncover" a dummy terrorist plot wholly scripted and concocted by the FBI in the first place.

Although many argue that this was simply entrapment, evidence does indicate that Mohamud became increasingly radicalised and voluntarily continued with the FBI's fake terror plot. Regardless, CAIR attorney Zahra Billo told me, "The FBI seek out troubled people – nobody is arguing that some of these individuals aren't deeply troubled – and then enable and facilitate their aspirations. It is the FBI's job to stop operational terrorists. It is not the FBI's job to enable aspirational terrorists."
Attorney General Eric Holder recently suggested the use of such sting operations were "part of a forward-leaning way" in which law enforcement could proactively find those individuals committed to harming Americans, and a study revealed that 62% of terror prosecutions relied on confidential informants. But recent episodes suggest these tactics are neither "forward-looking", nor effective. Instead, they contribute towards a deepening, polarising wedge between law enforcement officials and some of their most important assets in the war against extremism: Muslim American communities.

Recently, a former FBI confidential informant, Craig Monteilh, humorously codenamed "Oracle", revealed he was paid $177,000 tax-free by the FBI to infiltrate and entrap a southern California Muslim community. The convicted forger, who went by "Farouk al-Aziz", was served with a restraining order by the mosque after he repeatedly pestered attendees with absurd conversations about engaging in violent jihad. Not to be deterred, the FBI heavily relied upon Oracle's superlative evidence, consisting of taped conversations, to indict an Afghan-American language instructor for allegedly making false statements regarding his ties to terrorists. Moreover, prosecutors alleged he was the brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden's security coordinator.

Surely, this bombshell discovery paved the way for a successful prosecution and conviction? Nearly a year and a half later, the judge agreed with the prosecutors to dismiss the case citing lack of an overseas witness and "evidentiary issues". The result is a widening distrust of the FBI, since "the community feels betrayed," said Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic shura council of southern California, an umbrella group of more than 75 mosques.

In the deeply flawed 2005 Lodi terror case, the FBI boasted of capturing two, alleged high-level terrorists, Hamid and Umer Hyatt – Pakistani father and son immigrants, who drove ice cream trucks for a living – based on the evidence of an unreliable Pakistani-American informant, codenamed "Wildkat". Indeed, his fact-finding lived up to his name, since he told the FBI he saw al-Qaida's number two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, at his Lodi, California mosque. Although the FBI [thankfully] conceded his reporting as false, they nonetheless proceeded to pay him nearly $300,000 to infiltrate the sleepy Muslim community and scour for terrorists. His taped conversations with Umer Hyatt reveal him badgering and allegedly conning Umer to make incriminating statements. Furthermore, videotapes of the Hyatts' absurd alleged "confessions", which former veteran FBI agent James Wedick Jr reviewed and concluded were a result of illegal questioning and coaxing, nonetheless convinced a jury to convict Hamid of providing material support to terrorists and making false statements to the FBI.

Aside from a miscarriage of justice, perhaps the most poisonous result of such belligerent law enforcement procedures, is a "chilling effect" on the Muslim American community, in which citizens legitimately feel fear and alienation from, and a deepening mistrust of, their government, as a result of such harassment. "Time and again, Muslims prove themselves to be good and smart when it comes to reporting potential crimes. The problem with this method of law enforcement is that strains the very relationships that are critical to effective community policing," says Billoo.

In a country where 60% of its citizens claim to not know a Muslim and 45% regard Islam as a religion that promotes violence, these self-aggrandising displays of "successful" prosecutions also contribute to the volatile climate of anti-Muslim bigotry and reactionary rhetoric. Recently, Glenn Beck delved into his hyperactive, paranoid imagination to produce the utterly baseless statistic that nearly 10% of Muslims are terrorists. Although many of Beck's audience will not question the veracity of his "facts", a comprehensive study undertaken by Duke University reveals that the number of radicalised Muslim-Americans remains very small. The study reports that "Muslim American communities have been active in preventing radicalisation… This is one reason that Muslim American terrorism has resulted in fewer than three dozen of the 136,000 murders committed in the United States since 9/11."

Thus, a Senegalese Muslim immigrant was the first to witness and report failed jihadist Faisal Shahzad's burning car in Times Square. A Muslim American community in Virginia went to local law enforcements and the FBI after discovering troubling videotapes left by five youths who allegedly went to Pakistan to commit jihad. A convert to Islam tipped off the FBI about the Christian militant group, the Hutarees, who were planning a terrorist attack on American soil. Even the Nigerian underwear bomber's own father warned British authorities that his son was radicalised and could potentially harm himself and others.

Undoubtedly, radicalisation and terrorism are real threats, which afflict all US citizens, regardless of race or religion. Perhaps the FBI should now cease treating most Muslim American citizens as potential suspects, whose privacy rights and civil liberties are now curtailed in clumsy ways – such as faulty GPS tracking devices sloppily attached on their cars. Perhaps the FBI needs to spend its considerable (taxpayer-paid-for) resources to re-engage them as partners and allies – instead of contributing to the heightened climate of fear and paranoia by employing shady informants with cheesy, comic-book codenames.


Wajahat Ali is a Muslim American of Pakistani descent. He is a writer and attorney, whose work, The Domestic Crusaders is the first major play about Muslims living in a post 9/11 America. He is the Associate Editor of Altmuslim.com. His blog is here

Monday, December 06, 2010

The FBI's "ACORN" Moment

Adam Serwer
The American Prospect

Having offered a very qualified defense of the FBI's use of informants in some terrorism cases last week, this story from The Washington Post, about an FBI informant named Craig Monteilh who was simply ordered to infiltrate a California mosque without an actual target, reads more like one of James O'Keefe's video schemes than a terrorism investigation:
In May 2007, Monteilh said he recorded a conversation about jihad during a car ride with Niazi and another man. Monteilh said he suggested an operation to blow up buildings and Niazi agreed. An FBI agent later cited that and other taped conversations between the two in court as evidence that Niazi was a threat.
A few days later, Ayloush got an anguished phone call from Niazi and the other man in the car.
"They said Farouk had told them he had access to weapons and that they should blow up a mall,'' Ayloush recalled. "They were convinced this man was a terrorist."
Ayloush reported the FBI's own informant to the FBI. He said agents interviewed Niazi, who gave them the same account, but the agency took no action against Monteilh.
So this guy thinks he's in a car with a terrorist -- and he does the rational thing, which is pretend he's on the same page, because after all, the guy is a terrorist and might kill him -- and the FBI's response is to use this as evidence that he's willing to kill innocent people. Mentioning O'Keefe isn't a diss -- the parallels are striking -- ACORN workers filed police complaints after supposedly "playing along" on some of the videos. Niazi did what, ideally, the FBI would have wanted him to do -- and they tried to nail him anyway. Given that the government acknowledges a toxic relationship between the American Muslim community and law enforcement would be a disaster for terrorism investigations, one wonders why the FBI was busy trying to make a case against the kind of person who will drop a dime on someone they believed was a terrorist.  Prosecutors ultimately dismissed the case, but it's extraordinary that it even got as far as a courtroom.

This strikes me as a pretty clear indication of a systemic problem. According to Montieilh, "He was instructed to infiltrate mosques throughout Orange and two neighboring counties in Southern California, where the Muslim population of nearly 500,000 is the nation's largest." If that sounds like racial profiling, it is -- but the FBI's operations guide basically allows investigations into "concentrated ethnic communities" if "these locations will reasonably aid the analysis of potential threats and vulnerabilities, and, overall, assist domain awareness for the purpose of performing intelligence analysis." That's basically a license to start snooping around on people for almost any reason. This case occurred years before the Obama administration took office, but Attorney General Eric Holder kept the expanded guidelines put in place by the last administration -- it's probably time to revisit them.

Tension grows between Muslims & FBI after informant infiltrates mosque

By Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 5, 2010; 12:47 AM

IRVINE, CALIF. - Before the sun rose, the informant donned a white Islamic robe. A tiny camera was sewn into a button, and a microphone was buried in a device attached to his keys.

"This is Farouk al-Aziz, code name Oracle," he said into the keys as he sat in his parked car in this quiet community south of Los Angeles. "It's November 13th, 4:30 a.m. And we're hot."

The undercover FBI informant - a convicted forger named Craig Monteilh - then drove off for 5 a.m. prayers at the Islamic Center of Irvine, where he says he spied on dozens of worshipers in a quest for potential terrorists.

Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, the FBI has used informants successfully as one of many tactics to prevent another strike in the United States. Agency officials say they are careful not to violate civil liberties and do not target Muslims.

But the FBI's approach has come under fire from some Muslims, criticism that surfaced again late last month after agents arrested an Oregon man they said tried to detonate a bomb at a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony. FBI technicians had supplied the device.

In the Irvine case, Monteilh's mission as an informant backfired. Muslims were so alarmed by his talk of violent jihad that they obtained a restraining order against him.

He had helped build a terrorism-related case against a mosque member, but that also collapsed. The Justice Department recently took the extraordinary step of dropping charges against the worshiper, who Monteilh had caught on tape agreeing to blow up buildings, law enforcement officials said. Prosecutors had portrayed the man as a dire threat.

Compounding the damage, Monteilh has gone public, revealing secret FBI methods and charging that his "handlers" trained him to entrap Muslims as he infiltrated their mosques, homes and businesses. He is now suing the FBI.

Officials declined to comment on specific details of Monteilh's tale but confirm that he was a paid FBI informant. Court records and interviews corroborate not only that Monteilh worked for the FBI - he says he made $177,000, tax-free, in 15 months - but that he provided vital information on a number of cases.

Some Muslims in Southern California and nationally say the cascading revelations have seriously damaged their relationship with the FBI, a partnership that both sides agree is critical to preventing attacks and homegrown terrorism.

Citing Monteilh's actions and what they call a pattern of FBI surveillance, many leading national Muslim organizations have virtually suspended contact with the bureau.

"The community feels betrayed," said Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, an umbrella group of more than 75 mosques.

"They got a guy, a bona fide criminal, and obviously trained him and sent him to infiltrate mosques," Syed said. "And when things went sour, they ditched him and he got mad. It's like a soap opera, for God's sake."

FBI and Justice Department officials say that the Monteilh case is not representative of their relations with the Muslim community and that they continue to work closely with Muslims in investigating violence and other hate crimes against them. Officials also credit U.S. Muslims with reporting critical information in a variety of counterterrorism cases.

The bureau "relies on the support, cooperation and trust of the communities it serves and protects," FBI spokesman Michael Kortan said, adding that agents conduct investigations "under well-defined investigative guidelines and the law, and in close coordination with the Department of Justice."

Officials said they have gone to great lengths to maintain good relationships with Muslims, including meetings hosted by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. Last week, FBI officials met to discuss law enforcement and other issues with predominantly Muslim Somali community members in San Diego and Minneapolis.

Steven Martinez, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Los Angeles field office, declined to comment on Monteilh, citing Monteilh's lawsuit. He said that in certain circumstances, if there is evidence of a crime, FBI agents may "conduct an activity that might somehow involve surveillance in and about a mosque."

But he said the agency does not target people based on religion or ethnicity.

"I know there's a lot of suspicion that that's the focus, that we're looking at the mosques, monitoring who is coming and going. That's just not the case," he said.
The 'chameleon'

Monteilh's career as an informant began in 2003. Like many other informants, he was familiar with the inside of a prison cell. He had just finished a sentence for forging bank notes when local police officers he met at a gym asked him to infiltrate drug gangs and white supremacist groups for a federal-state task force.

"It was very exciting," Monteilh said in an interview with The Washington Post. "I had the ability to be a chameleon."

Monteilh, who stands over 6 feet tall and weighs 260 pounds, had worked as a prison chaplain before he was incarcerated. Married with three children, the Los Angeles native said that after he became an informant, an FBI agent on the task force sought him out. Law enforcement sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about informants, said Monteilh was promoted from drug and bank robbery cases because his information was reliable and had led to convictions.

In early 2006, Monteilh said, he met with his FBI handler at a Starbucks.

"She asked if I wanted to infiltrate mosques," he said. At a follow-up session at a doughnut shop, he said, his new handler told him that "Islam is a threat to our national security."

Law enforcement sources said that the FBI trained Monteilh and that he aided an existing investigation. Monteilh, however, said he was ordered to randomly surveil and spy on Muslims to ferret out potential terrorists. Agents, he said, provided his cover: Farouk al-Aziz, a French Syrian in search of his Islamic roots. His code name was "Oracle."

Monteilh said he was instructed to infiltrate mosques throughout Orange and two neighboring counties in Southern California, where the Muslim population of nearly 500,000 is the nation's largest. He was told to target the Islamic Center of Irvine, he said, because it was near his home.

FBI tactics were already a sensitive issue at the Irvine mosque, a stucco, two-story building that draws as many as 2,000 people for Friday prayers. With tensions rising between law enforcement and Muslims over allegations of FBI surveillance, J. Stephen Tidwell, then head of the FBI's Los Angeles office, spoke at the mosque in June 2006.

"If we're going to mosques to come to services, we will tell you," he said, according to a video of his speech. ". . . The FBI will tell you we're coming for the very reason that we don't want you to think you're being monitored. We would come only to learn."

Two months later, in August 2006, Monteilh arrived at the same mosque. He had called earlier and met with the imam. That Friday, he took shahada, the Muslim declaration of faith, before hundreds of worshipers.

Worshipers said that in Monteilh's 10 months at the mosque, he became almost manic in his devotion, attending prayers five times a day and waiting in the parking lot before the 5 a.m. prayer. Monteilh said he was told by the FBI to take notes on who opened the mosque each day.

Worshipers said his Western clothes gave way to an Islamic robe, a white skullcap and sandals, an outfit Monteilh said was chosen by his handlers. As he grew closer to Muslims, he said, the FBI told him to date Muslim women if it gained him intelligence.

Worshipers noticed that Monteilh often left his keys around the mosque, said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who speaks often at the mosque.

"It seemed strange to people," Ayloush said.

Inside the car remote on the bundle of keys was a microphone that recorded Muslims at the mosque, in their homes and at a local gym. Monteilh, who told people he was a fitness trainer, used the gym to seek out Muslim men.

"We started hearing that he was saying weird things," said Omar Kurdi, a Loyola Law School student who knew Monteilh from the mosque and gym. "He would walk up to one of my friends and say, 'It's good that you guys are getting ready for the jihad."

Worshipers said Monteilh gravitated to Ahmadullah Sais Niazi, an Afghan-born Arabic-language instructor who was a regular at Friday prayers.

In May 2007, Monteilh said he recorded a conversation about jihad during a car ride with Niazi and another man. Monteilh said he suggested an operation to blow up buildings and Niazi agreed. An FBI agent later cited that and other taped conversations between the two in court as evidence that Niazi was a threat.

A few days later, Ayloush got an anguished phone call from Niazi and the other man in the car.

"They said Farouk had told them he had access to weapons and that they should blow up a mall,'' Ayloush recalled. "They were convinced this man was a terrorist."

Ayloush reported the FBI's own informant to the FBI. He said agents interviewed Niazi, who gave them the same account, but the agency took no action against Monteilh.

Still, Monteilh's mission was collapsing. Members of the mosque told its leaders that they were afraid of Monteilh and that he was "trying to entrap them into a mission," according to Asim Khan, the former mosque president. The mosque went to Orange County Superior Court in June 2007 and obtained a restraining order against Monteilh, court records show.

Soon afterward, Monteilh said FBI agents "told me they wanted to cut me loose." After he vowed to go public, he said, he met with three agents at the Anaheim Hilton, where an FBI supervisor threatened him with arrest.

"She said, 'If you reveal your informant status to the media, it will destroy the Muslim community's relationship with the FBI forever." Monteilh said.

The FBI declined to comment on Monteilh's allegation.

At a subsequent meeting, Monteilh said, he signed a non-disclosure agreement in exchange for $25,000 in cash. An FBI letter to Monteilh's attorney, on file in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, says Monteilh signed the non-disclosure agreement in October 2007.

But Monteilh was arrested in December 2007 on a grand-theft charge and ended up back in jail for 16 months. In January, he sued the FBI, alleging that the bureau and Irvine police conspired to have him arrested, then allowed his informant status to become known in prison, where he was stabbed.

The FBI and police have denied the allegations, and the lawsuit was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds. But the judge allowed Monteilh to file an amended complaint, with similar allegations, in September. The case is pending.
A case unravels

In the meantime, the case against Niazi unfolded. He was indicted in February 2009 by a federal grand jury on charges of lying about his ties to terrorists on immigration documents. In court, prosecutors said that jihadist materials were found on Niazi's computer and that he had wired money to an alleged al-Qaeda financier. Prosecutors said he is the brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden's security coordinator. Much of the evidence was FBI testimony about Niazi's recorded conversations with an FBI informant, who sources say was Monteilh.

"Frankly, there is no amount of bail or equity in a home that can protect the citizens of this community" from Niazi, Assistant U.S. Attorney Deirdre Eliot said in arguing for his detention.

Within days of Niazi's indictment, Monteilh revealed his informant status in a series of interviews with Los Angeles area media.

"I think the FBI treated me with the utmost treachery," he said in the interview with The Post.

In subsequent months, Monteilh sought out Niazi's attorneys and told them he was ordered to entrap their client.

A year and a half later, on Sept. 30, prosecutors summarily moved to dismiss the case against Niazi, and a judge agreed. The U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles cited the lack of an overseas witness and "evidentiary issues." Sources familiar with the decision said Monteilh's role - and his potential testimony for the defense - was also a factor.

Niazi declined to comment. His attorney Chase Scolnick said he is "very pleased with the outcome. It is a just result."

In recent weeks, Monteilh said, he has been approaching Muslims at a local gym and apologizing for "disrespecting their community and religion." Monteilh, who is now unemployed, says he regrets his role in the Niazi case and was glad when the charges were dropped.

On a recent Friday, more than 200 men sat on the carpet for prayers inside the Irvine mosque, most of them in khakis or jeans. During the sermon, the imam offered some advice.

"If an FBI agent comes in and says, 'You're under arrest,'â??" he told the crowd, they should pray to Allah - and then call a lawyer.

As worshipers milled around outside, they said they support the FBI's role in fighting terrorism but feel betrayed by the infiltration of their sacred place.

"The FBI wants to treat the Muslim community as a partner while investigating us behind our backs,'' said Kurdi, the Loyola student. "They can't have it both ways."

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

Excellent editorials and commentaries on the Temecula mosque issue

Temecula's black eye
North County Times, 12/5/2010

The Temecula Planning Commission is to be congratulated, not just for approving the construction of a mosque in the city, but for addressing head-on the intolerance of some of the mosque's opponents.

"I don't think I can remember a project that raised the kind of hatred I saw today," Commissioner John Telesio said after about five hours of hearings on a proposal by the local Islamic Center to build a 25,000-square-foot mosque next to two Christian churches on Nicolas Road.

Telesio put it lightly. The bigotry on display Wednesday night was an embarrassment to the community. It seems many opponents of the mosque view the proposed edifice as a potential launching point for jihadism, not so subtly suggesting that the goal of every Muslim is destruction of the non-Islamic world.

While there are those who fit that description, certainly, and we are at war with some, to equate everyone who practices Islam with the radical extremists who abuse the religion in defending their violence is a grave insult to those millions of Muslims who have chosen to live peacefully among us.

Speakers at Wednesday night's hearing trotted out the usual anti-Muslim propaganda, much of which is being spread on the Internet, including the preposterous assertion that we will one day be forced to live under Sharia, or Islamic, law.

Why exactly they believe that allowing Muslims a place to practice their religion will eventually force us all to live by their laws is unclear, but it is a fear driving much of the anti-Muslim hysteria around the nation.

A few of the opponents argued that the mosque should be rejected for more earthly reasons ---- parking and traffic ---- but for some of these, at least, that was just a convenient smokescreen.

Planning commissioners performed admirably under trying circumstances during a 5 1/2-hour hearing ---- and in the end they did the right thing, the only thing they could legally do: approve the construction of the mosque.

It is to their credit that they didn't stop there, but made clear their revulsion at the comments being made.

The next stop undoubtedly will be the City Council, after the decision is appealed. We have faith that council members will follow the Planning Commission's lead.

We can only hope, however quixotically, that the embarrassing display of Wednesday night is not repeated.


Temecula Unmosqued!
Press Enterprise, 12/5/2010

Mayor Jeff Comerchero worries about Temecula's image. Has the city been "unmosqued" as a snake pit of bigots?

Of course not. The Planning Commission certainly didn't swallow the sewage certain mosque opponents spewed last week. The City Council will get its chance to ratify the commish's approval of a new mosque next year.

But Comerchero's right to be rattled and smart to talk about it because Temecula's image may have gotten a little mussed up by nut-job citizens who testified:

Islam is not a religion. It's "much like communism."

"I would ask you to consider what this mosque will cause ... for the Muslim that's in the White House today."

"We have only to see other countries who have allowed mosques in and how their way of life has not just been changed but is gone forever, and now they are submissive to Sharia law."

(The Islamic Center of Temecula Valley was "allowed in" 12 years ago. Miraculously, the city has survived.)

"The arrogance of it all to build next to other churches that will eventually be taken over by the Muslims ... They infiltrate, then overpopulate ... They are not only our enemy, but pagans. Why would we want them in our own backyard?"

(Some in the audience cheered for that one.)

These are the same folks who'll stand four square, by golly, behind the Constitution and the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of religion and freedom of speech -- in that order.

If it's any consolation to Comerchero, his is not the first RivCo city to achieve dubious notoriety. Back in 1998, Riverside basked in the national limelight (the Montel Williams Show!) when the school board considered naming its newest high school for Martin Luther King Jr.

Some argued the name should honor the city's citrus heritage. But a whiff of racism penetrated the debate when some parents said, a) King wasn't regarded as particularly "famous" in some parts of the country, and b) King High could be perceived as an all-black school, damaging students' chances of getting admitted to out-of-state colleges. (No, I'm not making this up.)

This "concern" inspired me to call various admissions officials. A representative response:

"I thought I'd heard everything." -- Marlyn McGrath Lewis, director of admissions at Harvard University.

"Our process would never be that simplistic." -- Julie Peterson, U. of Michigan.

The Riverside school board ended up naming the place for King and I'd wager thousands of graduates have somehow been admitted to out-of-state institutions.

As Dr. King himself might have put it, Riverside overcame this sordid little episode. Temecula has a chance to do the same, especially if the council does what the planning commish did: allow the proposed mosque's fate to turn on land use issues.

In time, and with luck, the city's ignorant purveyors of fear, hatred and bigotry will crawl back into the woodwork from whence they came.

Reach Dan Bernstein at 951-368-9439 or dbernstein@PE.com


Mosque rancor
Press Enterprise, 12/4/2010

The debate over a proposed mosque in Temecula has no room for vitriolic, hateful comments that embarrass the city and anyone who values the Constitution. Such behavior needs to stop, now. The mosque proposal is a land-use issue, not a battle for the nation's soul.

The Temecula Planning Commission approved the mosque plan last week, after a long and often heated hearing. The Islamic Center of the Temecula Valley wants to build a 24,943-square-foot building on a 4.3-acre site in northeast Temecula. Opponents of the proposal said this week they plan to appeal the approval to the City Council.

The city should judge the project as it would any other proposed development, assessing traffic, parking, noise, compatibility with nearby development and other planning details -- as commissioners and some attendees tried to do. But many in the audience saw the proposal as a direct attack on America's way of life, and responded in ugly fashion. Critics called Muslims "pagans" and "enemies" and said Islam was not a religion, but a political movement trying to impose its views on the rest of the world.

A dispute over religion has no place in city planning decisions, however. The city has no authority to decide which faiths are allowed in Temecula, nor should residents want officials to make such judgments. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion, and not just in cases where no one objects. That right is not subject to popular opinion or City Council votes.

And the hostility and rancor expressed by some at the meeting left a dark and unnecessary stain on the city's image. Appalled planning commissioners condemned the bilious prejudice on display in some comments. Mayor Jeff Comerchero worried, justifiably, about how the public would perceive Temecula residents "not supporting the Constitution."

Nor does the animosity toward the Islamic Center's plans make much practical sense. The group has already been in Temecula for 12 years, without causing trouble. The group hardly becomes a threat just by moving into its own building. And why would a mosque present a larger danger to the community than the same folks using a rented hall?

Besides, linking all Muslims to terrorism shows a simplistic world view that ignores the complex reality. Certainly, the nation faces a threat from the radical Muslim element willing to wreak havoc on the innocent to serve religious or political goals. But Islam encompasses a variety of differing schools of thought. Assuming that all Muslims agree with the most extreme element is no more credible than saying crackpot white supremacists represent mainstream Christian belief.

Planning Commissioner John Telesio's analysis was on target: "Ignorance of the facts breeds fear, fear breeds hatred." Telosio hoped this week's bitter episode was an anomaly -- and so should all of Temecula.

An inspirational reflection on the Qur'an by an agnostic Jewish author (MUST WATCH)

Lesley Hazleton explores the Koran and finds much that is quite different from what is reported in commonly cited accounts.

Lesley Hazleton (born 1945) is an award-winning British-American writer whose work focuses on the intersection of politics, religion, and history, especially in the Middle East. She reported from Israel for Time, and has written on the Middle East for numerous publications including The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, Harper's, The Nation, and The New Republic.[1].

Hazleton was born in England, and became a United States citizen in 1994. She was based in Jerusalem from 1966 to 1979 and in New York City from 1979 to 1992, when she moved to her current home in Seattle WA, originally to get her pilot's license. She has two degrees in psychology (B.A. Manchester University, M.A. Hebrew University of Jerusalem).[2]

She has described herself as "a Jew who once seriously considered becoming a rabbi, a former convent schoolgirl who daydreamed about being a nun, an agnostic with a deep sense of religious mystery though no affinity for organized religion".[3] "Everything is paradox," she has said. "The danger is one-dimensional thinking".[4]

In April 2010, she began blogging as The Accidental Theologist <http://accidentaltheologist.com>, focusing on religion, politics, and existence.[5].

She is currently working on a new biography of Muhammad[6], to be published by Riverhead/Viking in 2012.

TEDxRainier is an independently organized TED event held in Seattle Washington.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Mosque shuns FBI informant


An FBI informant who attempted to infiltrate an Islamic community centre in the quiet Californian town of Irvine scared Muslim worshippers so much with his talk of violent jihad that they took out order against him, the Washington Post reported.

The FBI claims its use of such informants has prevented more attacks since the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Yet its officials have said that they do not target Muslims - an argument that has long been taken with a dose of scepticism by some commentators.
The latest case follows revelations that a man who tried to bomb a Christmas ceremony in Portland, Oregon, did so not only whilst under FBI surveillance, but had been provided with fake explosives by its undercover agents.

Making matters worse for the agency, Craig Monteilh, the convicted fraudster whom the FBI sent into the mosque to spy on its members, has gone public and is suing the investigative agency.

The two cases are reviving criticisms over the government agency's apparent surveillance of Muslims in the US.

Southern Californian Muslim community leaders have expressed outrage over the FBI's methods, saying it undermines any efforts to build trust.

"The community feels betrayed," Shakeel Syed, the executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, told the Post.

"They got a guy, a bona fide criminal, and obviously trained him and sent him to infiltrate mosques," Syed was quoted as saying. "And when things went sour, they ditched him and he got mad. It's like a soap opera, for God's sake."