Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
News & Views, August 2009
Muslim American News Briefs
August 20, 2009
CAIR-LA Letter: Enough with the Neocon Fear Mongering (Wash. Times)
CAIR Letter: Miss. Mosque Zoning Flap Reeks of Intolerance
Raids Poisoned Relations Between Law Enforcement, Somalis (Seattle Times)
CAIR-LA: FBI Faces Claims It Spied on Muslims (Al-Jazeera)
CAIR-FL: Not Guilty, Megahed Faces Deportation Trial (SP Times)
Muslim Bollywood Star Claims Religious Profiling at NJ Airport
CAIR-OH: Ramadan is More Than Fasting, Ohio Author Says (Plain Dealer)
VA: Home-Schooling Attracts Muslims (Washington Times)
HADITH OF THE DAY: GOD MADE FRIDAY, SATURDAY AND SUNDAY DAYS OF PRAYER - TOP
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "For the Jews (the day designated by God for communal prayer) was Saturday, and for the Christians it was Sunday. And God turned toward us (Muslims) and guided us to Friday (as the day of communal prayer). In fact, (God) made Friday, Saturday and Sunday (as days of prayer)."
Sahih Muslim, Hadith 417
President Obama is correct. In fighting against al Qaeda-like terrorism, we are combating violent criminals who try to hide behind religion in order to justify their views and actions ("It's not over until it's over," Letters, Thursday). We must not fall into the trap of those terrorists by legitimizing their false claims to the religion of Islam. Labeling them "Islamic" is the best PR gift we can hand to them as they try to recruit disenfranchised young people.
Abortion-clinic bombers and al Qaeda murderers are not Christian or Islamic murderers, respectively. They are murderers and criminals who must be stopped and punished, regardless of which Scripture they twist to rationalize their hatred and violence.
I am not surprised to read that Zuhdi Jasser, a longtime darling of the neoconservatives, is unhappy with the Obama administration's decision to retire the neocons' fear-mongering rhetoric and terminologies. Extremists on both sides -- the neocons and al Qaeda -- need each other's rhetoric of fear in order to justify their views and raison d'etre. However, the rest of us are tired of both sides' destructive behavior.
Hussam Ayloush Executive Director, Los Angeles Office Council on American-Islamic Relations Anaheim, Calif.
In his letter to the editor (“Madison Muslim mosque zoning flap reeks of intolerance,” 8/10/09), Robert Donald makes a number of misstatements of fact and misrepresentations of Islam.
His main misperception is that Islam somehow mandates killing people of other faiths and beliefs, whom he calls “infidels.” Mr. Donald pulled a few words from the Quran out of context, but anyone familiar with the Quran would know that the fragments of verses he quoted refer to specific historical conflicts; they do not justify wanton violence.
In fact, the Quran, Islam’s revealed text, gives religious protections to minority faiths. A Muslim man can marry a Christian or Jewish woman without any obligation or expectation that she change her religion. When Jews faced persecution in Europe, many fled to safety in Muslim lands. Many Muslim countries have centuries-old Christian and Jewish communities that clearly would not exist if Mr. Donald’s claims were a reflection of true Islamic beliefs.
The Quran states: “Rest assured that (Muslims), Jews, Christians and Sabians - whoever believes in God and the last day and perform righteous deeds - will be rewarded by their Lord; they will have nothing to fear or to regret.” (The Holy Quran, 2:62)
If you would like to read for yourself and form your own opinions, I invite you to request a free copy of the Quran (there is a small shipping charge for those who are not public officials) that includes English translation and historical notes. You can request a copy of the Quran at www.explorethequran.com.
Ibrahim Hooper National Communications Director Council on American-Islamic Relations E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Three years ago, armed agents from a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) task force crashed through the door of a Seattle apartment where Habibo Jama, a Somali refugee and U.S. citizen, lived with her brother, uncle and cousins. Jama, startled awake, opened her bedroom door in her nightshirt to find herself facing several men in black pointing guns at her and ordering her to the floor.
Almost simultaneously, at an apartment 20 miles away in Kent, Ali Dualeh, his wife and their seven children — ages 4 months to 17 years — jolted from bed when they heard a loud noise. Both parents made it to the hallway before they were tackled by agents from the Valley Narcotics Enforcement Team who had broken down their front door.
The raids were part of "Operation Somalia Express," a national crackdown on the smuggling of "khat," a leafy herb that is illegal is the United States but as commonplace as a cup of coffee in the Horn of Africa, where it has been chewed for centuries for its effect as a mildly euphoric stimulant.
Agents conducted 17 searches in Seattle alone, along with dozens of other raids in New York, Minnesota and Ohio. In all, 44 people were indicted on charges of conspiracy, money laundering and other federal drug-related felonies, many carrying prison sentences of 20 years. In Seattle, 19 men were indicted, including Ali Dualeh and Mahamoud Jama, Habibo Jama's uncle.
By almost any measure, however, Operation Somalia Express was a failure.
In Seattle, prosecutors eventually dismissed charges against 15 of the 19 men, including Ali Dualeh. Mahamoud Jama served three months for a reduced felony charge of importing a prohibited plant — the longest sentence given to any of the Seattle defendants.
Prosecutors in New York obtained 10-year prison sentences against two ringleaders of the operation, but most of the defendants there went free, as well. Jama and Dualeh are now suing the DEA and several local police agencies, including the Seattle and Tukwila departments, that helped in the raids. The suits allege the violent entries into the Dualeh and Jama homes by armed SWAT teams were unnecessary and violated their Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. (More)
SEE ALSO: CAIR-LA VIDEO: FBI FACES CLAIMS IT SPIED ON MUSLIMS - TOP Gabriel Elizondo, Al-Jazeera English, 8/14/09
Click here to watch the video.
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is alleged to have infiltrated several mosques across the country in the hope of finding Muslims who were planning attacks.
Al Jazeera spoke to an ex-convict who claims the FBI assigned him to spy on Muslims in the state of California.
Some Muslims there say he went even further - trying to encourage them to commit attacks. Gabriel Elizondo reports.
TAMPA — Youssef Megahed celebrated victory four months ago when a federal jury in Tampa acquitted him of explosives charges in a case that raised suspicion of terrorism.
The nightmare he and his family endured for nearly two years had ended — but not for long.
Three days after the not-guilty verdicts April 3, U.S. immigration officials whisked Megahed away to face deportation.
The American Civil Liberties Union decried the immigration charge as vindictive. The Council on American-Islamic Relations called it a slap in the face. The arrest angered enough jurors who spent 21 hours deliberating after the two-week criminal trial that they spoke out and labeled it "fundamentally wrong."
Megahed's fate now hangs in the hands of an immigration judge in Miami-Dade County. On Monday, deportation proceedings begin there at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Krome Detention Center. (More)
NEW DELHI — Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan criticised the US for believing it lived in a "parallel universe" in comments broadcast Monday following a row with immigration officials at a New York airport.
Khan has said he was singled out for questioning by US immigration officials due to his Muslim name -- sparking outrage among his millions of Indian fans, as well as senior politicians and the Indian press.
"America needs to understand one small thing... that there are about 190-195 smaller countries and that makes the whole world," Khan told Indian television channel CNN-IBN from Houston in comments broadcast on Monday.
"It's not an isolated, parallel universe existence for this country. There is a whole world which makes all the good and bad that is happening," said the actor, who is one of the biggest names in Bollywood.
"So if we are scared of violence and terrorism, all of us are responsible for it. It's not that the world is and America is not." (More)
Muslims fast from before dawn until past sunset during Ramadan, the holy month that starts Saturday this year. Not even water is allowed.
But that's only part of the story.
"Non-Muslims tend to view the denial as hardship," said Dr. Asma Mobin-Uddin, an Ohio pediatrician and author who is also president of the state chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations.
"They see the challenges and struggle of not eating and drinking, but the perspective in the Muslim community is totally the opposite. It's not just fasting. It's trying to be the best person you can be. It's a beautiful time."
Explaining Muslim-American life is a mission for Mobin-Uddin. She wrote a children's book, "My Name Is Bilal," about an American Muslim boy worried about being accepted by his grade school classmates, and a second, "The Best Eid Ever," about a family observing Eid al-Adha, the biggest holiday of the Muslim year.
Her latest, "A Party in Ramadan," is about a girl invited to a classmate's party during the month. Already recognized with a 2009 Parents Choice award, the book was, like the others, written to fill a void, with Mobin-Uddin's own three children in mind.
"I didn't see a book that conveys the experience of Ramadan and fasting from the standpoint of a kid," she said.
"I wanted to share the beauty, the joy and the blessings of fasting. Kids like to participate. I wasn't seeing that in books about the holiday."
Mobin-Uddin, 42, has been explaining Islam to a wider community since childhood in her native Marion, an hour north of Columbus, where her parents, both physicians, emigrated from Pakistan. ..
"For many Muslims, it is their favorite month of the year," Mobin-Uddin said, "because there's such a sense of mercy, charity and generosity. You try not to be angry or argue. It's such a time of giving, everybody has their fund-raisers in Ramadan."
About 60,000 Muslims live in Greater Cleveland, according to Julia Shearson of the local CAIR chapter. Many will visit the area's 13 mosques for nightly prayers, and most will gather to feast, breaking their daily fasts with dates and water.
The communal celebration is part of the appeal of Ramadan, which otherwise "has such an interior spiritual dimension," Shearson said. "No one else knows you're fasting. It's done out of humility and to help us feel thankful that every drop of water comes from the creator. It's a recharging of the spiritual batteries." (More)
Youth in America learn from mentors in communities. With this in mind, the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) offered their first internship opportunities since inception of the organization in May 2007. Internships were offered for undergraduate and graduate students. Three young people from Oklahoma City were chosen to learn skills to make a difference and are mid-way through the program.
Adam Bates, CAIR-OK’s Civil Rights Intern, has a B.A. in political science and is currently pursuing a J.D. and an M.A. in Middle Eastern studies at the University of Michigan. “The fact that [civil rights] is unpopular is why it’s important to me. Anytime the government goes to war, those are the peoples whose civil rights are being violated,” said Bates, who is interested in civil liberties work for CAIR as well as protecting the rights of the individual and American Muslims. “Whether it’s legislators turning down gifts or telling people they can’t wear head scarves, there is no penalty for that,” adds Bates. “It’s a worthy cause for people to defend those rights for Muslims.”
Faheem Fazili serves as the Governmental Affairs Intern. “I think my experience has been a hybrid being Muslim and not being raised in an Islamic society,” said Fazili. “I find that jobs and such push me away from my culture. CAIR attracted me because I am interested and invested in it; because it affects my community directly.” Fazili, a student at Cornell University, is interested in political science and Islamic relations in America. He plans to attend law school after completing his degrees in history and government.
Last but not least is Amrish Sengupta, CAIR-OK’s Communications Intern. “This internship has helped me to develop my communication skills. Working to promote Islam, unity and dialog has also been very educational and I have been humbled by the experience,’ said Sengupta. “I am a Christian but I wanted to work with CAIR to understand and extend the hand of love to the Muslim community from my church.” Sengupta is a poet and studies political science at Oklahoma City University.
The interns were given projects both at the facility and in the community, including workshops, educational campaigns, and training sessions at mosques and community centers. They have worked with governmental officials, media professionals, academic, interfaith and civic leaders on substantive projects to lay the foundation for a fair and more inclusive America. (More)
Throughout the month of Ramadan, which begins Friday, the Cattaneo children won't have to worry about explaining to teachers and friends why they're fasting every day.
That's because they're home-schooled, part of a growing trend among Muslim families.
"We wanted a more religious-based influence on our kids' lives," said Ismail Cattaneo, their father. "It's the same reason the Christians have."
Home-schooling is big in Virginia, especially in Loudoun County where the Home School Legal Defense Association is based at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville. And Patrick Henry — where I was a temporary adjunct journalism professor in 2001 — is a magnet for home-schooled kids.
I had been to a state home-schooling conference in Richmond in the late 1990s, but I hadn't picked up much on which religions — other than Christianity — were getting into the act.
A lot of Muslims are fine with sending their kids to public schools, Mr. Cattaneo told me, but what encouraged him and his wife, Jean, to keep their children at home was the success Christian families were having.
"You hear of these Christians winning spelling bees and going to Harvard," he said.
It's not like they live in a Muslim bubble, said the couple when I visited their town house in Sterling last week. Their English tutor is Jewish; the family participates in Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Little League, and the kids play with Christian home-schoolers two doors down. (More)
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