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

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

In U.S. Sting Operations, Questions of Entrapment (NY Times)

By ERIC SCHMITT and CHARLIE SAVAGE

WASHINGTON — The arrest on Friday of a Somali-born teenager who is accused of trying to detonate a car bomb at a crowded Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Portland, Ore., has again thrown a spotlight on the government’s use of sting operations to capture terrorism suspects.

Some defense lawyers and civil rights advocates said the government’s tactics, particularly since the Sept. 11 attacks, have raised questions about the possible entrapment of people who pose no real danger but are enticed into pretend plots at the government’s urging.

But law enforcement officials said on Monday that agents and prosecutors had carefully planned the tactics used in the undercover operation that led to the arrest of the Somali-born teenager, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, a naturalized United States citizen. They said that Mr. Mohamud was given several opportunities to vent his anger in ways that would not be deadly, but that he refused each time.

“I am confident that there is no entrapment here, and no entrapment claim will be found to be successful,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Monday. “There were, as I said, a number of opportunities that the subject in this matter, the defendant in this matter, was given to retreat, to take a different path. He chose at every step to continue.”

Mr. Holder called the sting operation, in which Mr. Mohamud was under the scrutiny of federal agents for nearly six months, “part of a forward-leaning way in which the Justice Department, the F.B.I., our law enforcement partners at the state and local level are trying to find people who are bound and determined to harm Americans and American interests around the world.”

A study this year by the Center on Law and Security at New York University, which tracks terrorism cases, found that of 156 prosecutions in what it identified as the most significant 50 cases since 2001, informers were relied on in 97 of them, or 62 percent. The entrapment defense has often been raised, but as of September, it had never been successful in producing an acquittal in a post-Sept. 11 terrorism trial, the study found.

The Portland case resembles several others in which American residents, inspired by militant Web sites, have tried to carry out attacks in the name of the militant Islamic movement only to be captured in a sting operation, with undercover F.B.I. agents or informers playing the role of terrorists and, as in this case, supplying a fake bomb.

In September 2009, Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, a 19-year old Jordanian citizen, was arrested and charged with placing a fake bomb at a Dallas skyscraper. In October, Farooque Ahmed, a 34-year-old naturalized American citizen born in Pakistan, was arrested and charged with plotting to bomb the Washington Metro after meeting with undercover agents and discussing his plans and surveillance activities, the authorities said.

Some Muslim leaders in Oregon questioned how the sting operation there was carried out.

Imtiaz Khan, the president of the Islamic Center of Portland and Masjed As-Saber, a mosque where Mr. Mohamud worshiped, said several people at the mosque had questioned why law enforcement helped orchestrate such an elaborate plan for a terrorist act.

“They’re saying, ‘Why allow it to get to this public stunt? To put the community on edge?’ ” Mr. Khan said.

Mr. Khan said he and other Muslim leaders met regularly with the F.B.I. and other federal officials. In May, he was among a group of Muslim leaders in the Portland area who issued a statement condemning an attempted bombing in Times Square and thanking law enforcement for its “outstanding work” in the case.

Jesse Day, a spokesman for the mosque and Islamic center, said the circumstances of Mr. Mohamud’s arrest had stirred “some distrust, a little bit, in the tactics” of law enforcement.

The government’s 36-page affidavit filed in the Oregon case lays out a crucial conversation between Mr. Mohamud and an F.B.I. informer at their first meeting, on July 30, 2010. According to the affidavit, the informer suggested five ways that Mr. Mohamud could help the cause of Islam, some of which were peaceful, like proselytizing, and some of which were violent and illegal.

Mr. Mohamud, the affidavit said, immediately picked a violent crime: becoming “operational,” by which he said he meant putting together a car bomb. The informer then offered to put Mr. Mohamud in touch with an explosives expert, setting off the chain of events that led to his eventual arrest.

Defense lawyers may have an opportunity to challenge the government’s account of that conversation. According to the affidavit, while most of the conversations between the informer and Mr. Mohamud were recorded, that one was not “due to technical problems.”

Still, in subsequent recorded conversations, the affidavit said, Mr. Mohamud picked the target, said he had wanted to commit such an attack for several years, and repeatedly demurred when told he could walk away if he did not have it “in his heart” to go through with it.

The question of how far the police may go in inducing the subject of an investigation to commit a crime turns on whether the facts show that the defendant was already predisposed to carry out a crime should the occasion arise.

Daniel C. Richman, a Columbia University professor of criminal law and former federal prosecutor, said it was largely up to juries to decide whether to accept a defense of entrapment, which in practice is often hard to win. “These are jury questions that by and large go against the defendant, although every case is different,” Mr. Richman said.

The Justice Department also has rules on how far investigators may go in facilitating a subject’s criminal activity. The F.B.I.’s domestic operations guide, which was overhauled in 2008, notes that courts have found it to be “legally objectionable” when government agents lead a political or religious group “into criminal activity that otherwise probably would not have occurred.”

The guide also has a long section of rules on what undercover agents and confidential informers can and cannot do, but it is almost entirely redacted from a publicly released version of the document.

F.B.I. officials have said the bureau requires legal reviews and higher-level approval of activities involving undercover agents and confidential informers to avoid putting convictions at risk with entrapment accusations. But they have made clear that once someone voices an intent to commit a violent act, undercover agents and informers are allowed to respond by offering to help the subject of the investigation obtain weapons.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s a would-be terrorist who has expressed his desire to launch an attack, or a would-be drug dealer who has indicated an interest in moving a kilo of crack cocaine,” said Kenneth L. Wainstein, a former assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s national security division. “So long as that person has expressed an interest in committing a crime, it’s appropriate for the government to respond by providing the purported means of carrying out that crime so as to make a criminal case against him.”

William Yardley contributed reporting from Portland, Ore., and Scott Shane from Washington.

Was FBI grooming Portland suspect for terror?

By Hal Bernton
Seattle Times staff reporter

PORTLAND — FBI undercover operatives helped fund Mohamed Osman Mohamud's would-be terrorism plot to detonate a car bomb during a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony on Friday at a crowded public square in the heart of the city.

Operatives helped him find components needed to create a bomb and schooled the 19-year-old Somali-born man in how to set off the explosives.

The sting operation enabled the FBI to amass a formidable amount of details about what a grand-jury indictment Monday charged was Mohamud's attempt to use a car bomb as a "weapon of mass destruction."

But Mohamud's attorneys and some local Muslims are raising questions about whether the operatives who posed as co-conspirators played their role too well.

Defense attorney Steve Sady questioned whether the operatives were "basically grooming" Mohamud to try to commit a terrorist attack.

"The information released by the government raises serious concerns about the government manufacturing a crime," according to a statement released by Sady and Steven Wax, public defenders assigned to represent Mohamud.

Mohamud, through his attorneys, pleaded not guilty on Monday.

Law-enforcement officials say that they gave Mohamud plenty of opportunities to opt out of the bomb plan and that he was committed to carrying out the crime at the time, place and location of his choosing.

"I am confident there is no entrapment here," Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday in Washington, D.C. "There were ... a number of opportunities ... that the defendant in this matter was given to retreat, to take a different path. He chose at every step to continue."

The handling of the case by the Justice Department and FBI won praise from some in Portland, including Mayor Sam Adams, who as a city commissioner earlier in his career voted in favor of removing the city from the joint terrorism task force formed by the FBI and other law-enforcement agencies.

"I think this was a really smart response with the federal, state and local law enforcement that resulted in preventing someone with what looks like clear criminal intent to do harm, to do harm with a weapon of mass destruction," Adams told KOIN-TV in Portland.

Still, Imtiaz Khan, president of the Islamic Center of Portland and Masjed As-Saber, a mosque where Mohamud worshipped, said several people at the mosque had questioned why law enforcement helped orchestrate such an elaborate plan for a terrorist act.

"They're saying, 'Why allow it to get to this public stunt? To put the community on edge?' " Khan told The New York Times.

The case is the latest in a series of sting operations that have involved FBI undercover operatives or informants posing as terrorists to help make a case against would-be bombers.

One of those cases involved four men who sought to blow up two Jewish synagogues in New York with the help of an FBI informant who provided fake bombs. Despite claims of entrapment, they were convicted in October. Also this year, a Jordanian man who sought to use a decoy bomb provided by the FBI to blow up a downtown Dallas skyscraper pleaded guilty to an attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and received a sentence of up to 30 years.

The Portland sting ended in high drama Friday when Mohamud allegedly made a cellphone call that was supposed to detonate the bomb at the tree-lighting ceremony, where 10,000 people had gathered.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Portland quickly released a 36-page affidavit detailing the sting operation.

But defense attorneys attacked the prosecutor's office for turning the affidavit into a news release to promote the case, and also questioned why the Justice Department waited so long to make an arrest. By busting Mohamud during his attempt to detonate the mock bomb, rather than in an earlier phase of the operation, the Justice Department may have compromised Mohamud's ability to receive a fair trial, Wax said.

Mohamud came to Oregon as a young boy from Somalia. He thought of Portland as an area overlooked by law-enforcement officials. "They don't see it as a place where anything will happen," he told an FBI undercover operative, the affidavit says.

Yet, in the nine years since the Sept. 11 attacks, Portland has been the scene of significant terrorism investigations.

One investigation, which included surveillance of a Portland mosque, resulted in the 2002 indictment of a group of men, including a former intern from the mayor's office, for conspiracy to levy war against the United States and other charges. A high-profile case in 2004 involved a bungled fingerprint analysis that ended up with a Portland-area Muslim, Brandon Mayfield, charged with involvement in a bombing case in Madrid, Spain. Those charges were withdrawn, the FBI apologized and Mayfield settled the case for $2 million.

The FBI investigations have spurred interfaith outreach efforts by Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders to promote understanding and tolerance.

"These issues brought a lot of people to the forefront to try to understand the Muslim community," said Iman Mikal Shabazz, director of the Oregon Islamic Chaplains Organization.

Shabazz said those efforts will continue. But he noted that Mohamud's arrest and a Sunday arson at a Corvallis mosque where Mohamud sometimes worshipped have created fresh concerns among many area Muslims.

"There is a heightened sense of awareness," Shabazz said. "The biggest concern is for children who need to go to school and women who need to go shopping."

Information from The New York Times is included in this report. Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581 or hbernton@seattletimes.com. Times researcher David Turim contributed to this report.

Residents condemn bomb plot, criticize FBI (MSNBC/AP)

By TIM FOUGHT
The Associated Press
updated 11/29/2010
MSNBC.com

PORTLAND, Oregon — Some residents of this famously liberal city are unnerved, not only by a plot to bomb an annual Christmas tree-lighting ceremony last week but also by the police tactics in the case.

They questioned whether federal agents crossed the line by training 19-year-old Somali-American Mohamed O. Mohamud to blow up a bomb, giving him $3,000 cash to rent an apartment and providing him with a fake bomb.

The FBI affidavit "was a picture painted to make the suspect sound like a dangerous terrorist," said Portland photographer Rich Burroughs. "I don't think it's clear at all that this person would have ever had access to even a fake bomb if not for the FBI."

Mohamud's defense lawyer said in court on Monday that agents groomed his client and timed his arrest for publicity's sake.

Public defender Stephen Sady focused on the FBI's failed attempt to record a first conversation between Mohamud and an FBI undercover operative. "In the cases involving potential entrapment, it's the initial meeting that matters," Sady said.

Attorney General Eric Holder defended the agents on Monday, rejecting entrapment accusations.

Once the undercover operation began, Mohamud, who officials said had no formal ties to foreign terror groups, "chose at every step to continue" with the bombing plot, Holder said.

To be sure, many Portlanders were unsettled that a terror plot could unfold in their backyard — in Pioneer Courthouse Square, as thousands cheered the tree lighting — and not in much higher-profile cities such as New York or Los Angeles.

At a time when people are focused on body scans and intrusive pat-downs to prevent terrorist attacks, some Portlanders wondered if the FBI had gone too far and unnecessarily scared residents.

"What is distressing about the incident is not so much that the FBI arrested or otherwise intervened," said resident Joe Clement, 24, "but that the FBI used him to create a scenario that scared a lot of people."

It is not unusual in Portland for actions by federal agents to be met with skepticism and criticism.

Portland was the first city in the nation to pull its officers from the FBI's terrorism task force in 2005. The move came after the FBI wrongfully arrested a Portland attorney as a suspect in the 2004 Madrid train bombings — a mistake that prompted an FBI apology.

"I don't think there will be much serious debate as to whether or not (Mohamud) should have been a person worth looking into," said resident Christopher Frankonis, 41. "Portland being Portland, and Portland being liberal, it will understand and accept" it.

But Portland being what it is, residents will "still want answers to questions about how it all went down," he said.

The Portland plot was reminiscent of other recent arrests. A 34-year-old Pakistani-American was accused of targeting the Washington, D.C., subway system in October and authorities say a 19-year-old Jordanian man tried to bring down a Dallas building with a truck bomb in Sept. 2009. In both cases, federal agents had set up elaborate ruses to ensnare the men.

In Mohamud's case, the FBI set up a sting operation to investigate him after receiving a tip.

Two undercover federal agents led Mohamud to believe he could detonate a bomb with a cell phone, helped him choose an apartment in Portland and instructed him to buy the equipment necessary to trigger the fake device.

Authorities say he parked a van full of explosives near the square on Friday night and was arrested shortly after he dialed a cell phone that he thought would blow up the bomb. He was charged with attempting to detonate a weapon of mass destruction.

Kim Bissett said she moved to Portland because it is a liberal city. She said most of the anger was from the suburbs, not from city residents.

"The angriest people are those from the suburbs, not necessarily Portland, which is very accepting," Bissett said.

A fire on Sunday destroyed part of the Salman Al-Farisi Islamic Center in Corvallis, a college town about 75 miles (120 kilometers) southwest of Portland. Mohamud occasionally worshipped at the center while attending Oregon State. No one was injured.

Police believe the fire was intentionally set and increased patrols around mosques and other Islamic sites in Portland.

At a news conference in Washington, Holder also said the FBI was investigating the fire. If the blaze is related to the arrest or to an attack on Islam, it "is something that I personally decry," Holder said.

"It is not something that is consistent with who we are as Americans," he said.

While leaders in the Somali community in the U.S. condemned the plot, some, including a friend of Mohamud, were concerned about federal agents possibly luring him into breaking the law.

Mujahid El-Naser, 20, said he didn't believe Mohamud would have gotten involved in the plot without FBI encouragement. El-Naser, who has played basketball with Mohamud, said he never heard him express extremist views.

"If you talk with someone enough, they'll be convinced they need to do something," said El-Naser, who gathered outside the federal court building with a couple of dozen people before a court hearing where Mohamud pleaded not guilty.

Mohamud's lawyer asked a judge to order the government to preserve whatever devices, storage media or locations might have been used for a July 30 meeting at a downtown Portland hotel.

At the meeting, an FBI affidavit said, Mohamud talked of "putting stuff in a car, parking it by a target, and detonating it." While the undercover agent was equipped with audio recording equipment, it didn't work, for reasons the affidavit left unexplained.

Sady said preserving the evidence would allow defense experts to examine it, and Judge John Acosta granted the request.

A defense of entrapment must prove that the government planted the idea of a criminal act in an innocent person's mind and brought about the crime so the government could prosecute it.

Key to the defense is showing the defendant wasn't predisposed to act criminally before the government got involved.

In this case, the FBI affidavit said it was Mohamud who picked the target of the bomb plot, that he was warned several times about the seriousness of his plan, that women and children could die, and that he could back out.

Mohamud "was told that children — children — were potentially going to be harmed," Holder added.

Authorities said they allowed the plot to continue so they could gather enough evidence to charge him with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

Portland Mayor Sam Adams said he will review the city's decision to remove itself from the Justice Department's Joint Terrorism Task Force, a cooperative among state, local and federal law enforcement.

"We have a new federal administration," he said. "There have been changes to federal practices and federal laws."

Mohamud was investigated for rape in 2009 but never charged. The Benton County District Attorney's Office didn't find a reason to charge Mohamud with a crime after a woman whose name was redacted in the documents filed a sexual assault complaint.

Mohamud had sex with the woman in an Oregon State dorm room on Oct. 31, 2009. He said in the documents that he and the woman were "a little tipsy" when they left a fraternity party and returned to his dorm room.

Tests on the woman failed to show any controlled substances or common pharmaceuticals in her body.

Mohamud's attorney, Steven Wax, could not immediately be reached for comment.

___

Associated Press writers Jonathan Cooper, Tim Fought and Pete Yost in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Christopher Hitchens: Why America will come to regret the craven deal Obama is offering Netanyahu

Why America will come to regret the craven deal Obama is offering Netanyahu.
By Christopher Hitchens
Monday, Nov. 15, 2010
Slate.com

...Now we read that, in return for just 90 days of Israeli lenience on new settlement-building (this brief pause or "freeze" not to include the crucial precincts of East Jerusalem), Netanyahu is being enticed with "a package of security incentives and fighter jets worth $3 billion" and a promise that the United States government would veto any Palestinian counterproposal at the United Nations. Netanyahu, while graciously considering this offer, was initially reported as being unsure whether he "could win approval for the United States deal from his Cabinet." In other words, we must wait on the pleasure of Rabbi Yosef and Ministers Atias, Yishai, and Lieberman, who have the unusual ability to threaten Netanyahu from his right wing.

This is a national humiliation. Regardless of whether that bunch of clowns and thugs and racists "approve" of the Obama/Clinton grovel offer, there should be a unanimous demand that it be withdrawn...

The only mystery is this: Why does the United States acquiesce so wretchedly in its own disgrace at the hands of a virtual client state?

Read Full Article

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Carrying the Legacy, Advancing with Confidence (Speech at CAIR-LA Banquet)


Hussam Ayloush's speech delivered at the 14th Annual Banquet of CAIR, Anaheim, Oct 30, 2010.

Click to watch video of speech

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Carrying the Legacy, Advancing with Confidence

Our country and our community are facing a major challenge; a challenge with two levels.

The first is to America and what it stands for – it is the challenge of those who are trying to take America in a direction that involves xenophobia, division, hatred, incivility, and intolerance.

The second level is to American Muslims – it is a challenge to our rights, identity, or even co-existence.

This challenge is not the result of a random happening. There is a multimillion dollar anti-Muslim industry, an industry of hate and fear that is determined to stir up mistrust and fear of Muslims.

I am pleased to share with you the good news that our National CAIR office has just launched, a few weeks ago, an Islamophobia Department, which will focus on tracking, exposing and challenging this destructive industry. We expect the first major report from this department in a couple of months, God willing.

Even as this industry is becoming exposed, it is important for us to realize that we American Muslims are not the only victims of this anti-Muslim industry.

The American public is its main victim – our fellow Americans are being misled, manipulated, and pushed to hate other people. And this is one of the worst forms of victimhood that a people can be subjected to. It’s important to keep in mind that in most cases, these are people we need to reach out to, not to fight with.

Although this anti-Muslim hysteria seems to possibly be the most serious challenge in the history of American Muslims, it is how we respond that will determine our place in history. Will we seize the opportunity to not only educate our fellow Americans about Islam, but to rise to the occasion and give back to our country by playing a role in protecting our nation and driving America to be true to its values?

Our best response and the only course we can proudly take as Americans and as Muslims is reflected in CAIR-LA’s banquet theme: “Carrying the Legacy, Advancing with Confidence.”

A legacy is “something handed down from the past, from a predecessor...”

It is something to be held, and revered, and built on - something that guides the work of future generations, who have the choice of whether or not to honor it.

And we are blessed with two legacies to celebrate. One is an American Muslim legacy. These Muslim pioneers sacrificed much of their time and the better part of their lives for a vision – a vision of an active, united, involved, integrated, and respected American Muslim community.

Without such people as Imam W. D. Mohammad, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X), Sr. Betty Shabazz, Imam Siraj Wahhaj, Dr. Hassan Hathout, Dr. Maher Hathout, Dr. Muzammil Siddiqui, Dr. Fathi Osman, Imam Haroon Abdallah, Imam Abdel Karim Hassan, Imam Saadiq Safir, Dr. Ahmad Sakr, Dr. Mustafa Kuko, and many, many others, we wouldn’t have a Muslim community. We wouldn’t have mosques, schools, organizations, or even a shared identity, had it not been for their vision and sacrifice.

The second legacy we are blessed with is the American civil rights legacy, which was built by individuals who sacrificed their own livelihood, time, and even lives to ensure that America remains true to its values of freedom and liberty and justice for all.

For instance, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X), Rosa Parks, Cesar Chavez, and many others unwaveringly challenged the status quo of injustice and discrimination. If it wasn’t for the change they catalyzed, none of us would enjoy today’s freedoms or be able to take part equally in American life. Granted, the road to a true democracy is a long one, and our country has taken many pit stops, but we’ve come a long way as a nation because of the legacy of those heroes.

But a legacy is only as good as it is carried. This means we learn about it, we respect it, we value it, we appreciate it, we build on it – but we don’t remain stagnant. If all we do is hand down to our children what our parents and grandparent struggled to achieve, then we’ve failed the next generation and ourselves.

The earlier generations built their legacy for us not just to enjoy and sustain, but rather to build on and achieve more. A community that just benefits from the work of others before it is not a community worthy of the sacrifices made on its behalf. Like those communities that sacrificed, we want to be a community that builds, that contributes to the rejuvenation of America’s founding principles. Others have left the footprints and continue to do so. We should now continue in their path until the next generation begins from where we stopped. And the progress continues.

That takes us to the second half of the theme: advancing with confidence.

A nation or a community that does not advance is indeed retreating. Darkness takes over in the absence of light, and evil flourishes in the absence of good. The Irish statesman Edmund Burke said: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

Advancing with confidence requires courage, knowledge, pride, and self-respect. If we don’t respect ourselves and recognize that we’re equal human beings, equal citizens, with equal rights and responsibilities, how can we expect others to recognize that for us? How can we expect others to respect us? Let’s look, for example, at the Park51 community center in New York. If, when an ignorant or bigoted person says, “The location of your mosque offends me” – if the first thing we do in response is move it, then how can we expect others to stand by our right to worship anywhere in America like everyone else; to freely worship? If a government agency chooses to violate the rights of American Muslims and we, as a community, accept being treated as second class citizens, what are we teaching our children or even those same abusers about how we perceive ourselves? Advancing with confidence means we know who we are, what our rights are, and what our responsibilities are.

As American Muslims, we have the right to be treated with fairness and respect, to worship freely, to be judged by our character not by stereotypes, for our children to feel safe - to be free from harassment, and for our mosques not to be vandalized by haters or spied on by Big Brother as if we were criminals. We have the responsibility to be good citizens, to participate in the civic process, to contribute our talent and hard work, to uphold the law and protect the Constitution of the United States, to be good neighbors and help those in our society who need our help.

We have to leave our good work, our footprints, for the next generation, rising to the occasion like other communities rose to the occasion: African American, Latino, Jewish, and Japanese Americans and others.

It is so important that we as American Muslims defend our rights and speak against injustice – on all sides – because this is what Islam demands from us and this is what our country needs from us the most now. We have to make a commitment that we are here to defend every person in America, especially now that we know how it feels to be subjected to this growing anti-Muslim bigotry and unfair government abuses.

The other responsibility that we have – and it’s a very unique position for American Muslims – is protecting against those who are pushing our country into a manufactured clash with what is described as “the Muslim world.” We can play a role in steering America toward dialogue, peace, and just policies. Being citizens of the only superpower of the world today requires from us to be bridge-builders, to help fellow Muslims around the world and fellow Americans listen and talk to one another, rather than be driven by self-serving extremists on all sides.

To take this role, we must engage politically and socially in our country, to promote policies that bring peace, economic justice, political freedoms and human rights in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kashmir, and even here in America, toward immigrants, low wage workers, the poor, the uninsured, and every suffering person and community.

The challenges are big, the burden is equally big, but the vision is clear, and the legacy is here for us to carry it and advance it with confidence.

(Speech delivered at the 14th Annual Banquet of CAIR, Anaheim, Oct 30, 2010)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Another worker abuse case in the M.E.: Images of abused maid rattle Indonesia


SEE:

Protect the human rights of migrant workers in the Middle East

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Images of abused maid rattle Indonesia

Associated Press (AP)

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — She arrived in Saudi Arabia a high-spirited 23-year-old, eager to start work as a maid to help support her family back home. Four months later, Sumiati was Indonesia's poster child for migrant abuse, alone and staring vacantly from a hospital bed, her face sliced and battered.

But while public anger has forced President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's government to acknowledge the problem for the first time, few expect any firm action to be taken.

Gruesome images snapped of Sumiati, now recovering in the Saudi city of Medina, have been splashed on the front pages of local newspapers and led television newscasts for more than a week.

Her employer — who has been taken in for questioning by police — is accused of cutting off part of her lips with scissors, scalding her back with an iron, fracturing her middle finger, and beating her legs until she could hardly walk.

"It's hardly the first such case," said Wahyu Susilo, a policy analyst at Indonesia's advocacy group, Migrant Care. "Again and again we hear about slavery-like conditions, torture, sexual abuse and even death, but our government has chosen to ignore it. Why? Because migrant workers generate $7.5 billion of dollars in foreign exchange every year."

Workers from Asian countries dominate service industries in the Middle East and there have been many reports of abuse — including allegations in recent days that an employer in Kuwait drove 14 metal pins into the body of a Sri Lankan maid.

"The wanton brutality alleged in these cases is shocking," said Nisha Varia, senior women's rights researcher at the New York-based Human Rights Watch, which called on authorities to investigate claims promptly and bring those responsible to justice.

She and others called cases like that of Sumiati the "tip of the iceberg."

But countries that export labor have a responsibility as well, Nisha said.

Though Indonesia sends more than 6.5 million workers abroad every year, it has drawn much criticism for failing — despite repeated promises — to ratify a 1990 U.N. convention on the protection of migrant workers. It also has not signed a bilateral agreement with Saudi Arabia that would give workers a legal basis to challenge employers.

But Oon Kurniaputra, an adviser to Indonesia's Minister of Manpower and Transmigration, argued Tuesday that the problem is not the fault of governments.

It is with profit-hungry recruitment agencies that lure young men and women overseas without ensuring their safety when they get there, he said.

Sumiati's case prompted President Yudhoyono to call a Cabinet meeting late last week to discuss ways in which the government could — and would — do more.

It turned out to be a public relations disaster.

It emerged during the talks that another Indonesian maid, 36-year-old Kikim Komalasari, had allegedly been tortured to death by her Saudi employer, her body found in a trash bin on Nov. 11 in the town of Abha.

"It's shocking to hear this ... it's beyond inhumane," said Yudhoyono, as the government sent a team of diplomats to the scene to investigate. "I want the law to be upheld and to see an all-out diplomatic effort."

Some lawmakers suggested a moratorium on sending domestic workers to Saudi Arabia, something that is considered unlikely given the close economic and political ties between the predominantly Muslim countries.

It also comes at a sensitive time, with hundreds of thousands of Indonesians in Saudi Arabia performing in the annual hajj pilgrimage.

Yudhoyono, meanwhile, had a proposal of his own: Give all migrant workers cell phones so they can call family members or authorities if they need help.

"It just shows how little he understands the problems domestic workers abroad are facing," scoffed Rieke Dyah Pitaloka, an opposition lawmaker who is dealing with labor and domestic workers affairs.

"Their employers are locking them up and taking away their passports ... they aren't going to let them keep a phone."

Most people believe little will change until girls are better educated and prepared for better jobs in Indonesia, a sprawling archipelagic nation of 237 million people, where the average wage is less than $300 a month.

Sumiati, a recent high school graduate from a fishing village on Sumbawa island, was bouncing with enthusiasm when she left for Saudi Arabia on July 18 with the help of a local recruitment agency, according to family and friends.

She saw it as a chance to be able to help her three younger siblings through school.

When the family — together with the rest of the country — first saw the cell phone picture of their little girl on television, they "went crazy."

"Her mother ... started crying hysterically and lost consciousness," Sumiati's uncle, Zulkarnain, was quoted as saying in the English-language The Jakarta Globe.

When they got Sumiati on telephone in the hospital, she said in a voice almost unrecognizable: "Please come in the form of angels and take me back home to my village."

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"Traveling with Jihad" - Exploring the shared history and common teachings of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam



When viewed through the lens of a shared history, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam provide differing perspectives on similar themes. Join Jihad Turk as he leads Charles Annenberg Weingarten through the common threads that tie the western faiths with that of Islam.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Islam in Japan - Road to Hajj from Japan

Islam in the Land of the Rising Sun  
Al Jazeera reports on Islam and Hajj efforts from Japan

Part 1:



Part 2:





Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ayloush responds to UC Mark Yudof on the issue of UCI protests

UC president Yudof: Speech is protected
The Daily Pilot
By Tom Ragan, tom.ragan@latimes.com
November 6, 2010

NEWPORT BEACH — University of California President Mark Yudof spoke before an estimated 350 people at Temple Bat Yahm on Thursday night, telling the predominantly Jewish crowd that he doesn't condone the anti-Semitic statements occasionally made on UC campuses, not just at UC Irvine.

But the reality, Yudof said, is that there is nothing he can do about it because they are protected under the 1st Amendment, which allows for free speech and the right to assemble.

He said he receives hundreds of e-mails daily from angry people in the wake of such protests or activities, and that they all ask him the same thing: Why doesn't he come out and condemn the anti-Semitic remarks made among the more politically involved Muslim student groups on campus?

"Well, I have condemned the speeches," he said. "I do condemn all the anti-Israel speeches, I condemn all the anti-Semitic utterances. I've said that before, and I'm saying it now, and I'll say it in writing again."

But by law, Yudof said, he cannot censor the speeches, "no matter how horrific they are."

Nor, he added, can he "shut down" the activities that occur on campus. The long and short of it, said Yudof, who is an expert in the U.S. Constitution, is that everything is within the legal rights of students when they speak out against Israel and its policies toward the Palestinians.

Still, Yudof compared some of the anti-Semitic activities to the equivalent of the "Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan" coming to campus and giving speeches and holding rallies.

"It's plain vanilla bigotry," he said.

His remarks were also couched and tempered as a result of tension that's built up over the past few years between the Muslim Student Union and Jewish students at UCI.

In February, 11 students from the UCI MSU were arrested after they repeatedly interrupted a speech given by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, who had planned to talk about the state of U.S.-Israeli relations.

The students said they were merely exercising their free speech rights, but Yudof said that's no defense.

"There is no right to drown out a speaker," he said.

But as far as the MSU and Anaheim office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, are concerned, the students had every right to voice their opinions.

"The students voiced political views to shame the representative of a foreign government accused of war crimes by the United Nations and human rights organizations," said CAIR Executive Director Hussam Ayloush. "Delivering this message in a loud and shocking yet peaceful manner was meant to express the gravity of charges leveled against Israeli policies. It falls under the purview of protected speech."

He went on to say that "legitimate criticism of Israeli policies is not anti-Semitism."

CAIR has also been critical of the punishment levied against the Muslim Student Union at UCI, calling it "selective" and saying that their disruption of Oren's speech should have been "constitutionally protected."

The MSU's subsequent suspension, CAIR said, is nothing but "an attempt to repress legitimate student protests" and that, in the end, it will undermine the importance of free speech at the university level.

CAIR markets itself as one of the largest Islamic civil liberties group in the United States. Its mission is to promote a positive image of Islam and Muslims, according to Munira Syeda, CAIR communications manager.

She said there are roughly 170,000 Muslims who live in Orange County and an estimated 1 million in California.

"It's a big constituency," she said. "He [Yudof] should keep that in mind because he represents the UC system."

Yudof's speech was sponsored by the Rose Project, a Jewish Federation and Family Services. The group was created nearly two years ago and helps create bridges between UCI students and a better understanding of Israel and what it means to be Jewish. The proceeds of the event will go back into the Rose Project.

An Open Letter to President Obama: Sorry, Mr. President, this time I need progress to have hope!


Dear President Obama,

When you spoke from Turkey and then Egypt, in the first year of your presidency, I was filled with hope. I shared your speeches with everyone I know. We were all excited about the new prospects for peace, dialogue, and justice.

This time, I am not too excited about your speech from Indonesia. Don't get me wrong, I still support the promises and points you made in the speech (and I still have higher hopes for you than I ever did or will for Bush, Cheney or Palin).  However, until you deliver on your old promises, I will not engage in celebrating new promises. I do not want to be part of promoting false expectations.

Guantanamo is still up and running. Israel continues to build illegal settlements, occupy Palestinian territories, and humiliate and prevent Palestinian refugees from returning to their homes and towns. US drones continue to harm civilians in Pakistan and Afghanistan. India, which you just visited, continues to occupy Kashmir and mistreat Kashmiris. American Muslims continue to be harassed and abused by the FBI and at airports in their own country.

This time, I am not impressed and I will not be a cheerleader. I need real progress to have real hope.

With best regards,
Hussam Ayloush
(An American Muslim who campaigned and voted for you)

Friday, November 05, 2010

I stand by my Iraqi Christian brothers and sisters. All Muslims do too.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "A believer is one from whom the people's blood and wealth are safe."

He also said:  "One who cannot be trusted and felt secured with, has no faith"

He also said: "One is not a true believer until he (or she) loves for his brethren (human brethren) what he (or she) loves for himself (or herself).


How can anyone who claims to have faith target innocent worshipers in mosques and churches?

Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups have taken responsibility for today's murderous attack on a mosque in Pakistan and Sunday's attack on a church in Iraq. Both attacks killed dozens of innocent people.  Both attacks and all previous Al-Qaeda attacks are sickening.  There is no place in our world for such vicious and bloody ideology that justifies such heinous behavior.  Such behavior contradicts the most basic Islamic teachings and human decency.


Moreover, I am extremely disgusted by Al-Qaeda criminals issuing an ultimatum and threat to Iraqi Christians.

Those Al-Qaeda fanatics and idiots must have forgotten that those Iraqi Christians have been in Iraq much longer before we Muslims arrived to Iraq and for the most part, Muslims and Christians have lived as good brothers, sisters and neighbors to one another, until the Al-Qaeda fanatics showed up.  Al-Qaeda should pack up and go back to their caves and let Iraqis live in peace.

I, as a Muslim, have much more in common with those innocent Iraqi Christians than what I will ever have with Al-Qaeda terrorists who claim to be Muslim.
 
(My disgust with Al-Qaeda does not clear our political leaders (ie Bush, Cheney and the neo-con gang) from their moral and legal responsibility for destroying Iraq and creating the vacuum that invited and attracted the filth of Al-Qaeda. However, that is another story for another day)

I stand by my Iraqi Christian brothers and sisters. All Muslims do too.

---

CAIR statement on this issue

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 11/5/10) -- The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has condemned a recent threat against Iraq's Christian community and a deadly attack in which dozens of Iraqi Christians were killed in a Baghdad church on Sunday.

The group claiming responsibility for the attack, an umbrella group that includes al-Qaeda in Iraq, reportedly threatened "all Christian centers, organizations and institutions, leaders and followers" in an online statement.

SEE: Al-Qaeda group threatens Iraqi Christians


In a statement, CAIR said:
"We condemn this attack on a house of worship in the strongest possible terms and repudiate the groups that perpetrate such heinous crimes. The Christian community has a long and honored tradition in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. The lives and religious rights of members of that community must be protected. Threatening people, especially basing such threats on their religion, is immoral and contrary to Islamic principles and teachings about people of other faith traditions. The Prophet Muhammad said: 'A believer is one from whom the people's blood and wealth are safe.'"
 

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Hussam Ayloush's Talk at CAIR-LA Banquet 2010 - "Advancing with confidence"

My talk at the CAIR-LA banquet, October 30, 2010
"Carrying the Legacy. Advancing with Confidence.