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, September 20, 2012

Explaining First Amendment to Muslims outraged by video

Explaining First Amendment to Muslims outraged by video

Posted on | September 18, 2012
Press Enterprise
David Olson
A motorcycle goes up in flames during a protest in front of the U.S. consulate Tuesday in Chennai, India. AP Photo

I attended the annual Council on American-Islamic Relations media breakfast in Anaheim this morning.

It’s an event that the Greater Los Angeles chapter of CAIR puts together every year to link reporters with Muslim sources, offer information on Islam and discuss issues in the news.

Of course, Islam has been in the news a lot lately, as Muslims in more than 20 countries have protested an anti-Muslim video produced in Southern California. Steven Klein, a consultant for the film and an anti-Muslim activist for years, lives in Hemet.

CAIR has repeatedly condemned the violent reaction to the video.

But Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the local CAIR chapter and a Corona resident, and Mohammed Faqih, imam of the Islamic Institute of Orange County, said American Muslims could do more.

Faqih said Muslims in the United States can act as “a bridge between east and west,” so Americans better understand Muslims and Muslims around the world better understand American culture and laws.

Ayloush said one reason for the violent reaction to the video was a lack of understanding of the First Amendment.

“We have not explained what the First Amendment means,” he said.

In much of the world, insulting or denigrating a religion is illegal. Many Muslims in other countries wonder why the U.S. government doesn’t ban the video.

Even Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi asked why the U.S. government didn’t punish the filmmakers.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week explained free-speech protections by stating, “We do not stop individual citizens from expressing their views no matter how distasteful they may be.”

Ayloush said that in the past few days, he has been explaining the First Amendment to Muslims abroad.
He said Muslims from the Middle East have told him that the United States has a double standard. Surely the U.S. government punishes people who criticize Israel, deny the Holocaust occurred or insult Jesus, they say.
But Ayloush explains to them that Americans are allowed to criticize Israel and that – no matter how repugnant the beliefs are – people are allowed to deny the Holocaust existed or to insult Jesus (who is a prophet for Muslims).

“People are shocked,” Ayloush said. “They didn’t know that.”

Ayloush also explains that the same First Amendment that protects the hateful video allows Muslims and others to worship freely.

“That helps,” he said. “They understand.”

Coptic Christians, Muslims and Steven Klein

Coptic Christians, Muslims and Steven Klein

Posted on | September 17, 2012 
Press Enterprise
David Olson

As the bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Los Angeles and an official with the Muslim Public Affairs Council were holding a joint news conference in Los Angeles Monday to condemn the anti-Muslim film “Innocence of Muslims” and the violence that has surrounded it, I was meeting with Hussam Ayloush, the Corona resident who is executive director of the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Ayloush said he hoped that one positive effect of the uproar over the video, and of extremist Copts’ involvement in it, would be more interfaith efforts between Coptic Christians and Muslims.
Ayloush said when he saw media coverage of the Copts over the weekend, he flashed back to the days following 9/11.

Just as many Americans had little familiarity with Islam before 9/11, most Americans knew little or nothing about Coptic Christians until the past week.

And as with Islam, what they saw was extremists, not the beliefs and lives of the majority of Copts, Ayloush said.

“This is not what the Coptic people and religion stand for,” he said.

Television viewers also saw people who, like some Muslims, appear very different from most Americans: Copts with long beards, foreign accents and long black robes. That can create a view among Americans that Copts aren’t Americans as others.

Ayloush said he has worked for years with Arab Christians and enjoys warm relations with them. The Syrian-born Ayloush grew up in Lebanon and attended a Christian school there.

He was buoyed by the joint news conference Monday and hopes there will be more interfaith efforts among Copts and Muslims.

Ayloush and I have chatted a few times about the video and the violent reaction to it. He and CAIR have strongly condemned the violence.

Ayloush said he has long been familiar with Steven Klein, the Hemet insurance agent who was a consultant on the video.

Klein has a satellite-television show in which he has discussed his disdain for Islam.

“I hate Islam,” Klein said in an Aug. 30 broadcast of his “Wake up America” show on The Way TV, an Arab Christian station based in the San Gabriel Valley city of Duarte. “I don’t ever want to see it (Islam) again.”

In the show, Klein said, “The Lord Jesus Christ has caused me to be a terrorist to the terrorists.”
He introduced a video clip of a man singing about guns and then shooting off guns by saying, “This is going to be the ultimate solution to the Muslims.”

Klein and his supporters have distributed virulently anti-Islam leaflets outside mosques throughout California – including Ayloush’s Corona mosque – and at dozens of Southern California high schools, including campuses in Temecula, Murrieta, Corona, Norco and Menifee. Ayloush’s own daughter received one of the leaflets at Corona’s Santiago High School.

The handouts say Mohammad had sex with children, committed incest and participated in genocide. One of the leaflets had Ayloush’s photo on it.

Ayloush said CAIR had deliberately avoided calling attention to Klein’s leafleting campaign.
“Our dilemma is there are a lot of crazy people out there and we don’t want to give them publicity,” he said.
Klein said one reason for his anti-Islam leafleting is so Muslims find out the “truth” about Islam and leave the faith.

But Ayloush believes the leafleting at mosques was meant to provoke Muslims to react violently, to confirm the stereotype of Muslims as violent people. Even though Klein leafleted mosques throughout Southern California, Ayloush said he is unaware of any violent reaction to the handouts.

Ayloush said if Klein had really wanted to convert Muslims, he would not have insulted the very people he was allegedly trying to reach.

Ayloush said it’s not uncommon for evangelical Christians to stand outside his and other mosques with leaflets and with signs that say something along the lines of “Visit our Church.” They’re clearly hoping to convert Muslims.

“I think it’s kind of out of place to do that,” Ayloush said. “But I have to say, they do it in the most respectful way. They don’t offend me. It’s not the right place to market your religion. But that’s fine.”

Ayloush said those Christians smile and carry materials that are focused on what they see as the positive aspects of Christianity.

The leaflets that Klein and his supporters handed out were different.

“It described the Prophet Mohammad and the religion of Islam in the most vulgar and offensive manner,” Ayloush said. “I have not a shred of doubt in my mind that what this was about was not to teach people who are Muslim about Islam or make people who are Muslim Christians. He is being driven by pure hatred and disdain for all Muslims.”

Thursday, September 13, 2012

My commens on politicians exploiting the tragic deaths in Libya

Local Leaders Speak Out On Death of U.S. Ambassador

J. Christopher Stevens and three embassy staffers died in assault on American consulate in Libya Wednesday.
Local Muslim leaders Wednesday condemned the slaying of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three others, while Rep. Dana Rohrabacher joined Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in criticizing President Barack Obama and the way State Department officials handled the attacks in Cairo and Benghazi.

"We strongly condemn the disgraceful killings of the American ambassador (Christopher Stevens) and his staff in Libya," Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said.

Ayloush joined other Muslim leaders at a news conference in Anaheim in denouncing the slayings of Stevens, foreign service officer Sean Smith and two others.

"We condemn it in the strongest terms possible," Ayloush said. "There is absolutely no justification whatsoever to engage in such behavior."

Ayloush also condemned the online movie suspected of sparking the outrage and demonstrations that turned violent in Cairo and Libya Tuesday, the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"It is certainly not a random act," Ayloush said of the movie, which he said was deeply offensive to Muslims. "The timing is certainly suspect, releasing it on the anniversary of 9/11."
The movie "lacks any intellectual basis," Ayloush said.

"It only includes vulgar and offensive scenes to incite and provoke such behavior from those who lack rationality in dealing with hate messages," Ayloush said. "The extremists who produced the movie threw bait and the extremist Muslims took the bait."

The movie and the reaction to it show "a conflict (between) people who believe religion unites us versus those who use and abuse religion to promote their narrow agendas of hate and extremism," Ayloush said.

Meanwhile, Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach, echoed Romney's criticism that Obama has appeased extremists and denounced a statement posted on Twitter before the attacks in Cairo that called for religious tolerance and criticized the movie.

"Today's White House response to the violent attacks in Libya and Egypt was totally unacceptable, as was the disgraceful statement issued by the embassy in Cairo," Rohrabacher said.

"Ill-advisedly included in the response to the killing of an American diplomat was an expression of understanding of the Muslim outrage over what they considered to be denigration of Islam.
"This was not the place, nor the appropriate context, for the White House to demonstrate sensitivity to Muslims around the world. Even mentioning that in any way is a projection of weakness. Placating radical intolerance will not deter further attacks on our diplomats or facilities overseas."

Rohrabacher said the State Department should “issue an immediate apology to the American people and fire those officials responsible for the initial statement."

In an interview with CBS, Obama shot back at Romney's criticism.

"Gov. Romney seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later, and as president, one of the things I've learned is you can't do that," Obama said. "It's important for you to make sure that the statements that you make are backed up by the facts and that you've thought through the ramifications before you make them."

Ayloush also slammed Rohrabacher's and Romney's criticism of the president.

"What a disgraceful and shameful attempt, a cheap attempt, by certain politicians to exploit this tragedy to score a few political points against the president, who, so far, has shown tremendous leadership in containing this mayhem, which was neither started by our country nor the good people of Libya or Egypt," Ayloush said.

"At this point, we're all American. We have to stop acting as Democrats and Republicans when there is such a tragedy or a risk of a wider conflict."

Ayloush said he was "disappointed" in Romney's comments as well.
"I was very disappointed with Romney's statement. This is not the time to play politics," Ayloush said. "Four innocent people lost their loves."

Ayloush said Muslims around the world have reacted with outrage at the killings, and he noted Stevens was popular among Libyans because of his role in last year's rebellion.

"I'm watching Arabic news, I'm on Facebook, reading the Tweets, and people in the Muslim world are as outraged as we are," Ayloush said. 

Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Garden Grove, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, said the news of the attacks was "heart breaking."

"I was deeply saddened to learn of the tragic deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith and two other Americans in Libya this morning," Sanchez said. "These violent attacks on our American diplomats are heartbreaking and unacceptable, and I extend my deepest condolences to the families of these diplomats, who have loyally served our nation and have represented America abroad with excellence."

The attacks "reverse the progress Libya has made toward a more open society," Sanchez said.

Rep. Ed Royce, R-Orange, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade, said he was "saddened and angered" by the attacks.

"U.S. diplomats are working around the world to protect and promote U.S. interests," Royce said. "In the case of Ambassador Stevens, he played a ritical role in helping Libyans rid themselves of a tyrant."

Royce added that "nothing can ever justify such violence. Those responsible for these deaths, and those who have incited this violence, must pay a price."

Santa Clarita Republican Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said, "This morning we were reminded once more of what a dangerous world we live in, and the risk many Americans take to serve our country abroad. My  thoughts and prayers -- together with those of this committee -- are with the families of those we've lost in Libya."

Gov. Jerry Brown said, "All Californians mourn the loss of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and the other three Americans killed in Libya on Sept. 11.

"As a graduate of Piedmont High School and UC Berkeley, Ambassador Stevens represented the very best that California and the United States have to offer.

"His dedicated service to our country and our world will never be forgotten.”

--City News Service

John McCain releases statement on murder of American ambassador

John McCain releases statement on murder of American ambassador

"It is with a heavy heart that I rise today to speak about the horrific attack yesterday on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans. The two confirmed thus far to be among the dead are Sean Smith, an Air Force veteran turned State Department Information Management Officer - and Ambassador Chris Stevens, one of America's finest and bravest Foreign Service Officers.

"I did not know Sean Smith, but I had gotten to know Chris Stevens quite well. And in Chris's death, the Libyan people have lost a great champion and believer in the peaceful aspirations of their democratic revolution. The American people have lost a selfless and dedicated servant of our interests and values. And I have lost a friend. My thoughts and prayers today are with Chris's family and the loved ones of his fallen colleagues. May God grant them comfort in their time of grief.
"Our most urgent order of business now is to make sure that our citizens still living and serving in Libya, and Egypt, and elsewhere across the region and the world are safe. Americans look to the governments in Libya and Egypt and elsewhere to meet their responsibilities in this regard. We also look to the Libyan government to ensure that those responsible for yesterday's attack in Benghazi are swiftly brought to justice. In all of these critical tasks, we are confident that our government will provide all necessary assistance and support. Yesterday's attacks are an important reminder that so many of America's civilians, and diplomats, and development professionals are risking everything to advance our nation's interests and values abroad. We must do everything in our power to ensure their security.

"At the same time, our thoughts turn to broader concerns - the mourning of our fallen friends, and how we as a nation should respond to these tragic events.

"One of my most memorable meetings with Chris Stevens was last April in Benghazi. As the U.S. envoy to the Libyan opposition, Chris had traveled to Benghazi at great personal risk to represent the country he loved so much while Libya was still gripped in a brutal fight for freedom. It was clear there was nowhere that Chris would rather have been than Libya. We spent the day together, meeting Libyan opposition leaders and many ordinary citizens, who spoke movingly about how much the opportunity to finally live in freedom meant to them, and how grateful they were for America's support. Chris embodied that support, and his passion for his mission was infectious.

"I kept in touch with Chris after my visit, and I was very happy when President Obama nominated him to be America's Ambassador to the new Libya. The last time I saw Chris was shortly after he had taken up his post, during my most recent visit to Tripoli. I especially remember the lighter moments we spent together, including when Chris insisted on personally making me a cappuccino, a task that he carried out with as much pride and proficiency as his diplomatic mission.

"That was on the morning of July 7 - the day Libyans voted in their first election in half a century. Chris and I spent the day together again, traveling around Tripoli, visiting polling places, and speaking with Libyan voters. We met a man whose father had been murdered by Qaddafi's henchmen. We met a woman whose brothers had recently given their lives fighting for their country's liberation. We met countless others, including many older Libyans, who were voting for the first time in their lives. And everywhere we went, we were greeted by crowds of cheering Libyans, bursting with pride and eager to shake our hands and express their gratitude for America's support. It was one of the most moving experiences of my life, and it was only made better by the fact that I got to share it with Chris.

"What we saw together on that day was the real Libya - the peaceful desire of millions of people to live in freedom and democracy, the immense gratitude they felt for America's support for them, and their strong desire to build a new partnership between our nations. That is why I am not surprised that senior Libyan leaders were among the first to condemn the horrific attack that killed Chris and his colleagues. And that is why I was not surprised to learn from our Secretary of State that many Libyans fought to defend our people and our consulate in Benghazi when they came under attack, that some were wounded while doing so, and that it was Libyans who sought to get Chris and his colleagues to the hospital. This is the spirit of the Libyan people that I have come to know and admire. And that is why we cannot afford to view the despicable acts of violence perpetrated yesterday by a small group of fanatics as in any way representative of the country and the people of Libya. They are not the real Libya - the Libya that Chris Stevens knew so well.

"After such a heartbreaking loss for our nation, I know many Americans are asking whether the United States was naive or mistaken to support the vast movement for change known as the Arab Spring. I know many Americans may feel a temptation, especially with so many domestic and economic challenges facing us here at home, to distance ourselves from people and events in Libya, and Egypt, and elsewhere in the Middle East. We cannot afford to go down that path.

"Yesterday's attack in Benghazi was the work of a small group of violent extremists, whose goals and actions could not be more at odds with those of the people and government of Libya. The Libyan revolution began peacefully and was dedicated throughout to the ideals of freedom, and justice, and democratic change. And when Libyans turned out by the millions to elect a new government in July, they gave the plurality of their vote not to religious fanatics, but to a political party led by a moderate technocrat and committed friend of the United States. 

"Libyans rose up last year to free themselves from exactly the kinds of murderers and terrorists who killed our people yesterday in Benghazi. Their enemies are our enemies, and they remain as committed as ever to imposing their evil ideology through violence on people in Libya and the Middle East, and ultimately on us. They want to hijack the Arab Spring for their own insidious purposes. And if we turn our backs now on the millions of people in Libya, and Egypt, and Syria, and other countries across the Middle East - people who share so many of our values and interests, people who are true authors of the Arab Spring - we will hand our common enemies, the terrorists and extremists, the very victory they seek.

"We were right to take the side of the Libyan people, and others in the region who share their peaceful aspirations. And we would be gravely mistaken to walk away from them now. To do so would only be a betrayal of everything that Chris Stevens and his colleagues believed in and ultimately gave their lives for, but it would also be a betrayal of America's highest values and our own enduring national interest in supporting people in the Middle East who want to live in peace and freedom."

Reacting to To Deadly Libya Attack (KTLA News)

Local Reaction To Deadly Libya Attack
Chris Stevens, an American who risked his life to help Libyans overthrow dictator Moammar Gadhafi, was killed overnight in the former rebel capital of Benghazi.
KTLA News - September 12, 2012

Islamic Leaders: Libyan Attacks "Deplorable"

View more videos at: http://nbclosangeles.com.

Islamic civil rights leaders say the death of Christopher Stevens in Libya intended to create chaos and blame a group that actually holds U.S. ambassadors in high regard. Muzammil Siddiqi with the Islamic Society of Orange County says in Islamic law, ambassadors have immunity from violence no whether they are agreed with or not. Vikki Vargas reports from Anaheim’s Little Arabia for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Sept. 12, 2012.
By Vikki Vargas | Sep 12, 2012