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

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Showing 'the face of Islam'

Huntington Beach Independent
(A Los Angeles Times community newspaper)

By Mona Shadia, mona.shadia@latimes.com
May 11, 2011

Before the Huntington Beach City Council meets every other week, someone walks up to the podium to lead a prayer after the flag salute.

Prayers in public meetings often end with a phrase like "in Jesus' name," which reflects the country's dominant faith.

But on the day following the announcement of the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden, a woman in a long, flowing, sky-blue dress and a blue scarf covering her hair walked to the podium. With her head down, she led the prayer.

Maria Khani, a representative of the Islamic faith on the Greater Huntington Beach Interfaith Council, didn't lead the prayer on that Monday evening as a result of the news about the killing of an extremist who used her faith to commit terrorist acts that changed the world almost 10 years ago.

In fact, it wasn't Khani's first time leading the prayer at the council meeting.

At first glance, it seemed like a coincidence. But thinking about it, Khani said it was an act of God, who usually works in mysterious ways.

"I said, 'Wow! God wanted me to do the invocation,'" Khani, a Huntington Beach resident, said. "I was thinking to myself on Sunday when the incident happened, and I said, 'Maybe God has a plan. Maybe he wants a Muslim to be in a city hall doing an invocation.'"

Fighting for a voice

Since 9/11, Muslims have been blamed for and associated with actions that they say do not represent their faith. Many have spoken in opposition to Bin Laden and his followers through various media outlets, held community prayers and even prayed at Capitol Hill in solidarity with 9/11 victims' families.

But it always seemed as if their voice was not loud enough or simply not given enough attention, said the Rev. Peggy Price of the Center for Spiritual Living in Seal Beach.

Price, a Huntington Beach resident, is one of the founders of the Interfaith Council.

"Moderate Muslims, most of Muslims, were hijacked on 9/11, but then continued to be hijacked by the media," she said.

Price spoke of the many press conferences and events she attended with Muslims speaking against acts of terrorism in the name of Islam, and the disappointment she felt when the story didn't make the media or only got a few paragraphs in the back of a newspaper.

Khani's presence that night was a subtle reminder to all Americans.

"I'm one of them," she said. "I'm part of this community. I'm part of this society. Nobody forced me to be here. When I took my citizenship and took the oath, I believed in every word I said, and I still do and I'm living by my words."

A push for diversity

It is also what Surf City is all about: including everyone.

While outsiders might know Huntington Beach for its bustling downtown and high surf, deep within lies a diverse community, one that has suffered from high-profile hate crimes but also rejoices in overcoming differences.

Several crimes, including the brutal beating and targeting of gay men and people of color in the city in the mid-1990s, led former Mayors Ralph Bauer, Shirley Dettloff and others to create the Human Relations Task Force.

The Interfaith Council also came from that effort. Its mission is to represent various faiths in the community and build tolerance and respect among people, Price said.

The city approached the Interfaith Council with the task of selecting people of various faiths to lead the invocation before each meeting.

"It was to help set the tone," Price said. "Sometimes the meetings can get very contentious. We try to select people from different religious beliefs so the city can see the diversity that's here."

While it's permissible to use the words "God" or "spirit," those who lead the prayer at City Hall are asked to not use names that are exclusive to specific religions, like Jesus or Allah, although Allah is Arabic for God.

Keeping the prayer inclusive keeps the city within the right guidelines of the Constitution, which prohibits governments from promoting one religion over another, Price said.

It also shows tolerance for one another, said Mayor Joe Carchio.

"I think we set that example," Carchio said. "I think Huntington Beach is pretty tolerant of religion."

'The face of Islam'

While some continue to look at Muslims with suspicion, Khani's prayer at the council meeting is an example of the real story that is being written about Muslims in America today, said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

"It's a story of Muslims being accepted and recognized as part and parcel of our diverse American religious and social fabric," Ayloush said. "In America, for the most part, the face of Islam is the Muslim teacher, the Muslim doctor, the Muslim member of Congress, the Muslim student, the Muslim neighbor and the Muslim friend. And Bin Laden and his group are becoming and were becoming what they are: mostly an irrelevant, extremist and rejected phenomenon."

As she prayed, Khani, a full-time mom who volunteers with many organizations throughout Orange County, hoped her prayer would mark a new, more peaceful era.

"I was thinking about the words I was saying," she said. "I was thinking that God put me in this place for a reason to say the invocation. We hope this will bring a new beginning, a great beginning."

63 Years of Nakba (short video)

I am also sick of the world's apathy, but remain committed to be part of the solution to bring justice and peace.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Robert Scheer's Column: A Monster of Our Own Creation

Posted on May 4, 2011

By Robert Scheer

He was our kind of guy until he wasn’t, an ally during the Cold War until he no longer served our purposes. The problem with Osama bin Laden was not that he was a fanatical holy warrior; we liked his kind just fine as long as the infidels he targeted were not us but Russians and the secular Afghans in power in Kabul whom the Soviets backed.

But when bin Laden turned against us, he morphed into a figure of evil incarnate, and now three decades after we first decided to use him and other imported Muslim zealots for our Cold War purposes, we feel cleansed by his death of any responsibility for his carnage. We may make mistakes but we are never in the wrong. USA! USA!

Kind of like when the CIA assigned the Mafia to assassinate Fidel Castro and the Mafiosi turned out to have their own agenda, or when Pentagon experts anointed the Catholic nutcase Ngo Dinh Diem as the George Washington of predominately Buddhist South Vietnam before they felt the need to execute him. A similar fate was suffered by Saddam Hussein, whose infamous Baghdad handshake with Donald Rumsfeld stamped him as our agent in the war to defeat the ayatollahs of Iran.

Awkward, I know, to point out that bin Laden was another of those monsters of our creation, one of those Muslim “freedom fighters” that President Ronald Reagan celebrated for having responded to the CIA’s call to kill the Soviets in Afghanistan. That holy crusade against infidels was financed by Saudi Arabia and armed with U.S. weapons to oppose a secular Afghan government with Soviet backing but before Soviet troops had crossed the border. In short, it was an ill-fated and unjustifiable intervention by the U.S. into another nation’s internal affairs.

Don’t trust me on this one. Just read the 1996 memoir by former Carter administration security official and current Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, a book touted by its publisher as exposing “Carter’s never-before-revealed covert support to Afghan mujahedeen—six months before the Soviets invaded.” This dismissal of the claimed Cold War excuse for the backing of the mujahedeen was acknowledged by President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who, when asked by the French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur if he regretted “having given arms and advice to future terrorists,” answered that he did not: “What is most important to the history of the world? Some stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?”

That was said three years before some of those “stirred-up Muslims” like bin Laden and the alleged 9/11 plot mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed—whom bin Laden financed, and whom he first met in Afghanistan when both were U.S.-backed fighters—launched their deadly attacks on the United States. The cost of the American response to that assault has spiraled upward for a decade. A defense budget that the first President Bush had attempted to cut drastically because the Cold War was over was pushed to its highest peacetime level by the second President Bush and now with three wars under way equals the military expenditures of all of the world’s other nations combined.

But while Libya and Iraq have oil to exploit, what will be the argument for continuing the interminable war in Afghanistan now that bin Laden is gone? White House national security experts had already conceded that there were fewer than a hundred scattered al-Qaida operatives in Afghanistan, and that these were incapable of mounting anti-U.S. attacks. Clearly, what remains of al-Qaida is no longer based in Afghanistan, as the location of bin Laden’s hiding place, in a military hub in Pakistan, demonstrated. Nor is there any indication that the Taliban we are fighting in Afghanistan are anything but homegrown fighters with motives and leadership far removed from the designs of the late bin Laden.

It is time to concede that the mess that is Afghanistan is a result of our cynical uses of those people and their land for purposes that have nothing to do with their needs or aspirations. Even if bin Laden had been killed in some forlorn cave in Afghanistan, it would not have made the case that he was using that country as a base. But the fact that he was in an area amply populated by the very Pakistani military and intelligence forces that we have armed, and that should have been able to easily nab him, gives the lie to the claim that Afghanistan is vital territory to be secured in what two administrations have now chosen to define as the war on terrorism.

CAIR Welcomes Elimination of Osama Bin Laden Threat

Group reiterates President Obama's message that U.S. is not at war with Islam.

(May 01, 2011 - ANAHEIM, CA) A prominent national Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization today welcomed the announcement of the elimination of Osama bin Laden as a threat to America and the world.

In a statement issued following President Obama’s announcement of bin Laden’s death, the Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) said:

“We join our fellow citizens in welcoming the announcement that Osama bin Laden has been eliminated as a threat to our nation and the world through the actions of American military personnel. As we have stated repeatedly since the 9/11 terror attacks, bin Laden never represented Muslims or Islam. In fact, in addition to the killing of thousands of Americans, he and Al Qaeda caused the deaths of countless Muslims worldwide. We also reiterate President Obama’s clear statement tonight that the United States is not at war with Islam.”

CAIR coordinated one of the first joint American Muslim statements condemning the 9/11 terror attacks, issued just hours after they occurred.

To read about CAIR’s anti-terror initiatives, go to:

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

- END -

Bin Laden's death a fresh start, Muslims hope

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Press-Enterprise

The death of Osama bin Laden offers American Muslims a chance to further distance themselves from terrorists and live peaceably after years of misunderstanding about their religion, Southern California imams and mosque leaders hope.

For the last 10 years, bin Laden's actions have been denounced by many Muslims, claiming he was not a Muslim leader and did not represent Islam. Now, with bin Laden gone, the country can move on, said Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, and "start acting in a way to being more conciliatory...

Qazi, whose organization is the nation's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization, and other leaders said bin Laden's death brings partial justice, because those who were killed in the September 2001 attacks cannot be brought back to life.

"I pray for the victims of 9/11 and their families and all of those who have lost their lives the last 10 years," Siddiqi said. He also is former president of the national Islamic Society of North America.

Despite bin Laden's death, the fight will continue against al-Qaida and other extremist groups, said Imam Sayed Moustafa al-Qazwini, founder and religious director of the Islamis Educational Center of Orange County in Costa Mesa.

That ongoing fight will always put Muslims in an occasionally uncomfortable spot, some said. But education and a change in rhetoric can improve relations between Muslims and non-Muslims.

"Whoever takes his place, I hope he does not become seen as a Muslim leader, but as an extremist," Ayloush said.