Archive for Islam In America

Wilfredo Amr Ruiz: ‘We Are Not at War With Islam’

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 23, 2012 by loonwatch

Wildredo Amr Ruiz

Wilfredo Amr Ruiz

Is the oft-repeated phrase by both presidents George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama, “We are not at war with Islam” just hollow political-speak?

Wilfredo A Ruiz discusses:

Wilfredo Amr Ruiz: ‘We Are Not at War With Islam’

Former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama have persistently affirmed: “We are not at war with Islam,” trying to assure 1.7 billion Muslims that the military actions of the so-called “war against terrorism” do not constitute belligerence against Islam or Muslims. This incessant message of denial is hard to swallow by many sectors of our society, and the world at large, since the United States has engaged in multiple wars of occupation in Muslim countries including Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, it conducts routine military incursions and bombardment campaigns on Pakistan, Yemen, Libya and other Muslim countries.
Furthermore, thousands of Muslim citizens around the world are subjected to arrest without formal accusations or due process of law. Incarcerations and even torture takes place at a network of international secret prisons and “black hole” locations operated or accessed by the CIA and other intelligence agencies.Unfortunately, in the American political arena there is also the perception that the government security and intelligence agencies and military apparatus are at war with Islam and Muslims.
They substantiate this notion with continuous discriminatory and prejudiced policies affecting American Muslims and their institutions. Let us take, for example, the harsh experience New York Muslims are undergoing with the NYPD. They are subject to widespread and ongoing espionage policies from their own police department, which include the opening of dossiers based on ethnic and religious profiling.
This openly unconstitutional practice is not based on suspiciousness of them committing crimes or being engaged in an ongoing criminal enterprise. Rather, the information recorded documents the restaurants they frequent, the books they check out, and even the times and places where they conduct their daily prayers.Evidently, the constant Islamophobic discourses have resonated to the military branches, resulting in the offering of multiple training courses with discriminatory, bigoted and offensive materials.
Some of these academic materials recently discovered are taught at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va., in which mainstream Muslim persons and organizations are characterized as radical, violent extremists. The course even calls for treating the Muslim civilian population the way the Japanese were dealt with at Hiroshima, with nuclear attacks on the holy cities of Mecca and Medina and wiping out civilians.
It promotes a total war on Islam affirming that there is no such thing as moderate Islam. The military training course participants are encouraged to think of themselves as a “resistance movement to Islam.” Other various training courses with xenophobic and bigoted content offered to the FBI have also been exposed. These are not isolated and unique classes, but multiple trainings held at numerous venues to hundreds of military officers and intelligence agents that are responsible for the safety and security of our nation.
Notwithstanding the military and FBI’s promises to review their courses and purge the training curriculums of Islamophobic materials, we need ask ourselves: How many other courses (most of them classified as “Secret”) have been offered and, perhaps, are still being offered in these highly secured and secret agencies without public exposure?
The sad reality is that our nation has institutionalized vigilance based on stereotypical ethnic and religious profiling. Let us just examine for a moment the recent incident at Fort Lauderdale International Airport, where an 18-month-old toddler, a daughter of American parents of Middle Eastern descent, was ordered off a plane by Jet Blue Airline’s officials who claimed she was on the TSA’s “no fly” list: a list obviously fed with the names of people selected based on ethnic and religious profiling. The toddler case is not the only one of its kind, as another 500 American citizens are also in these puzzling and sinister lists in the absence of due process. The lists are not only ineffective, but openly unconstitutional because individuals are included without notification or being told why they are on the list and without the chance to rebut the basis of their inclusion.

What will our political leaders do to try to erase the idea that the Nation is engaged in a war against Islam and Muslims? The major challenge they confront in this task is that the more time elapses, the more discrimination, oppression, persecution and injustices cements against American Muslims and their institutions.

President Obama still has the option and opportunity to rise to the occasion and confront this most delicate situation at the level it merits. He might, perhaps, start cleaning and straightening the Executive Branch from head to toe. The president should take steps that truly guarantee the elimination of racial and religious profiling exercised by law enforcement agencies and should swiftly end all the futile wars on Muslim countries once and for all. Perhaps, he should follow the Executive Order he signed back on Jan. 22, 2009, mandating the “Closure of Detention Facilities at Guantanamo” and the “Immediate Review of All Guantanamo Detentions.” Only such decisive actions will sustain the hollowed presidential words: “We are not at war with Islam.”

 Follow Wilfredo Amr Ruiz on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AnalistaInter

Why Islamophobia Must Fail – The Case of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , on April 10, 2012 by loonwatch

Why Islamophobia Must Fail – The Case of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz

by Rabia Chaudry, Huffington Post

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is the latest victim of an intricate web of half-truths and outright lies woven for political profit and as part of a broad, well funded, Islamophobia network. The Congresswoman was slated to be the keynote speaker at an April 21 event for the group EMERGE USA, but backed off after a scathing blog post by Joe Kaufman, who happens to be running for a Congressional seat for Florida’s District 20.

EMERGE USA is a non-profit committed to empowering minorities through increased civic engagement and education about the political process. The organization has strong roots in the community and has been publicly supported by one of Florida’s senior statesmen, former Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham, an expert on terrorism and intelligence. However, the fact that EMERGE USA was founded and is run by Muslims seems to be the proverbial bee in Kaufman’s bonnet. Ultimately, Kaufman’s Glen Beck-esque acrobatics in trying to link EMERGE USA board members and staff to “questionable” organizations and associations can be easily dismissed because of factual errors and deliberate obfuscation.

The truly insidious aspect of this entire incident, however, is that it can be linked to a multi-pronged attack on Muslims nationwide through the creation of an Islamophobia network with deep pockets and an agenda to marginalize American Muslims at every turn. The Center for American Progress’s 2011 report “Fear, Inc.” thoroughly documents this network’s funding, messengers and reach. Its efforts have manifested in anti-sharia legislation in dozens of states, bigoted trainings for law enforcement and intelligence communities, the character assassination of mainstream national Muslim organizations and even promotion of the idea that President Obama is a Muslim.

The nightmarish narrative disseminated by the numerous think tanks, pundits and self-appointed “experts” on Islam and terrorism has not only successfully influenced the American discourse on Islam and Muslims, but has had significant political impact. The Islamophobia network focuses much of its time and energy on influencing and supporting politicians who promulgate its world view. It provides politicians with talking points, platforms and agenda items to keep the suspicion and fear of Islam and Muslims in the news. Examples of such politicians cited by the “Fear, Inc.” report include the following:

  • Rep. Peter King: held numerous hearings on Islamic radicalization
  • Rep. Sue Myrick: called for congressional inquiry on the CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations, held hearings on influence of Muslim Brotherhood, leading Congressional fearmonger against Muslims
  • Rep. Trent Franks, Rep. John Shadegg and Rep. Paul Broun: supporters of the CAIR congressional investigation
  • Rep. Allen West: declared Islam as the enemy, claimed it is not a religion and held a briefing called “Homegrown Jihad in the USA”
  • Rep. Renee Ellmers: made the Park51 into an issue, calling it a ground zero victory mosque
  • Rep. Michelle Bachman: frequently raises concerns over homegrown Islamic threat and engages in anti-sharia rhetoric

While the influence of the Islamophobia network on right-wing politicians is more visible, the pressure it exerts on progressives is more troubling. Left-leaning politicians are also vulnerable to manipulation, as can be seen in Rep. Wasserman Schultz’s case. The Congresswoman is not the first Democrat to distance herself from a Muslim organization after being attacked by Islamophobes. To American Muslims who are mostly progressive in their politics, abandonment by Democratic politicians feels like betrayal.

The politicians who continue to be used to spread or confirm the network’s ugly narrative must realize something very important: while winning small battles, they are losing the war. History has proven that bigots, racists, xenophobes, anti-Semites and other variations on the same brand of fear and suspicion have never succeeded — socially or politically. Even genocide, the extreme expression of bigotry, has left nothing but failed ideology in its wake.

A simple understanding of the human psyche tells us that people tire of living in fear, worn out from perpetually being “anti-other.” Over time, we make up and move on. The battle of the Islamophobes will also eventually be lost because American Muslims and their allies will continue to push back against false narratives. The lifespan of Islamophobia in the United States will undoubtedly end up a sad blight on our history like other failed “anti” movements — but politicians, both Republican and Democrat, should ask themselves on what side of history they wish to be.

Rabia Chaudry is an attorney, President of the Safe Nation Collaborative, and an Associate Fellow of the Truman National Security Project.

Ibrahim Abdul-Matin: If Tim Tebow Were Muslim, Would America Still Love Him?

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2011 by loonwatch

If Tim Tebow Were Muslim, Would America Still Love Him?

The phenomenon that is Tim Tebow has extended outside the realms of the gridiron and into pop culture. Does he have God on his side? Would America love him if he was just as conservative and just as vocal, yet a member of the Islamic faith?

A version of this question was posed by Fox News recently. It was wrapped under the banner of their yearly “war on Christmas” with the subheading of a “war on Christians.” They argued that the voices calling for him to pipe down about his faith were anathema to a war on the Christian faith and that this is a growing and disturbing trend. They argued that the founding fathers initially came here for religious freedom and those freedoms were under attack.

To that last point I agree. Religious freedoms are under attack. Lots of freedoms are under attack. As a Muslim in this country there are countless examples of religious freedoms being questioned by the majority the least of which is this current fracas where the Lowe’s hardware store has pulled its money from ads on the “All-American Muslim” reality TV show. A show, from all accounts, that is neither universally reflective of American Muslims, but also, to right wing (nut) groups, does not expose Muslims for the real threat that they are.

So, it is in this cultural moment that we come to see Tebow Time every weekend. He plays terrible for three quarters and then, when all hope is lost, when the game is down to the wire, and the amazing defense of the Broncos (that love to watch him play instead of sitting when the offense is playing) puts him in a position to drive the team down the field, score to win or tie to go to overtime. They have done it consistently all season. The undefeated Green Bay Packers are now a side story to all that is the Denver Broncos led by Tim Tebow, probably the first home-schooled quarterback in American history. At the end of every game, Tebow, the child of Baptist missionaries, says the following: “First I would like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

I talked about this recently on Public Radio’s “The Takeaway.” It’s not like he is the first athlete to be vocal about his faith. In reality, football is a very faith-filled sport. The Lord’s Prayer is recited in almost every locker room in the country (save one town in Michigan that says the opening chapter of the Quran). As a Muslim, I know the Lord’s Prayer by heart because I played football for 13 years.

No, faith and football are not a new combination. What is new is Tebow.

What makes him irresistible is this collision of a series of factors: the media-saturated world we are in makes it so that we know far too much about athletes and public figures than ever before. Tebow is unique because he is both an underdog and a winner. He is both humble and non-judgmental — a dynamite combination for any human being. FInally, his fellow teammates love him, he does not drink, smoke or do drugs, he is celibate, unmarried, and he has a winning smile and personality.

People of faith should be cheering this model Christian on. Anyone of any passion should be exalting his independent thinking and supporting his right to speak freely about what he holds dear.

But what if he were Muslim? Americans look to people who are successful and they want to be like them. So, in some ways, young people want to be like him. If he were Muslim, would young people want to be Muslim? Would that scare people?

If he was Muslim would it be, as Fox News suggests, that everyone would be more careful when attacking him because the world is more sympathetic to Islam and on a march against Christianity?

Perhaps guilt that exists within Christians that were raised Christian but aren’t “practicing” Christianity in a particular way. They are uncomfortable about their faith. They see him out there with his public proclamations and it makes them feel like bad Christians. Would a “Muslim” Tebow, with all the qualities of humility and grace that Tebow exhibits, then make reactionary, and self-absorbed, Muslims feel like they were bad Muslims?

Tebow makes people that are faithful feel two ways. Some want him to be private about his faith and simply live by example. Others are like “Yes! That’s awesome!”

In general, some of the best people of any faith are too concerned about their own development and that challenges of living in this intensely secular culture to be worried about telling others what they should or should not be or do. That’s Tim Tebow. He’s concerned about his own development. That’s what everyone admires him for. He does not really care about what you think and you feel like he wants you to be as ecstatic about what you believe as he is. But would it be the same if he were a Muslim?

Finally, the big question: Is God on Tebow’s side? Obviously we will never know the answer. I will say this: If the Broncos continue at the pace they are going, make it to the playoffs, have a miraculous run all the way to the Superbowl, and if their defense is good enough to keep the game under 10 points and you give Tim Tebow the ball at the end of the game, then you might see Tebow as the Superbowl champion. Would we think he had God on his side this whole year?

And what if he did all that and the first thing he said in the interview was: “First, I would like to thank Allah and send blessings upon Prophet Muhammad.”

Would America think God was on his side then?

Follow Ibrahim Abdul-Matin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ibrahimSalih

Sahar Aziz: The Contradictions of Obama’s Outreach to American Muslims

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2011 by loonwatch

The Contradictions of Obama’s Outreach to American Muslims

On the same day that Rep. Peter King held the fourth “homegrown terrorism” hearing focused exclusively on Muslims, the White House released its Strategic Implementation Plan for Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States. Despite the White House’s seemingly benign approach to counterterrorism, its implementation produces adverse effects similar to Mr. King’s confrontational tactics.

The White House Strategy proclaims, “Law enforcement and government officials for decades have understood the critical importance of building relationships, based on trust, with the communities they serve. Partnerships are vital to address a range of challenges and must have as their foundation a genuine commitment on the part of law enforcement and government to address community needs and concerns, including protecting rights and public safety.”

To someone unfamiliar with the history of community outreach to American Muslims, the strategy sounds ideal. However, the Obama Administration has sabotaged its own high-minded public position by adopting the Bush Administration’s counterterrorism model that punishes the broad Muslim community rather than targeting genuine threats. Thus, the Administration’s actual practices conform all-too-closely to Peter King’s vision of terrorism being synonymous with Islam.

While preventing terrorism before it happens is a legitimate strategy, the way in which it is currently implemented comes at a high price to a vulnerable minority — Muslims in America.

Expansive surveillance laws coupled with a relaxation of terrorism investigative standards have placed mosques under intrusive surveillance. Similarly, thousands of informants have been hired, for hefty payments, to induce inept and often mentally ill young Muslim men to join fake terrorist plots. Watch lists are bulging with Muslim names while those incorrectly listed lack due process rights to seek removal of their names. Scores of Muslims with no ties to terrorism are charged for making false statements to federal agents in retaliation for refusing to serve as informants. And attempts to locate “lone wolf terrorists” have resulted in the misguided conflation of Muslim orthodox practices with terrorism.

These assaults on Muslims’ civil liberties have strained relations between Muslim communities and law enforcement agencies.

Community outreach meetings, in theory, are supposed to provide the communities with an opportunity to work with government to keep counterterrorism efforts from violating civil rights and civil liberties. Unfortunately, officials routinely dismiss community grievances, reciting self-congratulatory boilerplate that the American government respects constitutional rights as it fights terrorism. Indeed, the government’s cavalier disregard of community concerns is so pervasive that many leaders have concluded that meetings with federal officials are merely pro forma, check-the-box events providing political cover to a government they believe is systematically and unlawfully profiling Muslims. Others have chosen to boycott the meetings altogether.

The government seems oblivious to the harm these counter-terrorism policies are doing to the potential for trust in Muslim communities. Making matters worse, the immense political pressure on the Justice Department to produce terrorism indictments, and congressional accusations that Obama is soft on terrorists, places the Muslim communities in an intractable dilemma: How can you be partners with agencies who misdirect adversarial behavior from actual terrorists to Muslim communities en masse?

If a young Muslim terrorist suspect manipulated into a phony plot has mental health problems and needs rehabilitative health services, for example, investigators and prosecutors nonetheless pursue the adversarial route — to prosecute and incarcerate. The combined effects of these entrapment efforts and over-charging obviously disturbed young Muslim men threatens to devastate Muslim communities in the same way that the mass incarceration of African American men has transformed the communities from which they have been removed.

Such concerns are validated by documents obtained through a freedom of information request by the American Civil Liberties Union, proving the FBI used community outreach meetings forcollecting intelligence on Muslim AmericansAccording to the ACLU, the FBI did not inform Muslims at outreach events, such as community meetings, religious dinners and job fairs, that conversations and names of those in attendance would be recorded in government files. A 2008 document shows that an FBI agent “collected and documented individuals’ contact information and First Amendment-protected opinions and associations, and conducted Internet searches to obtain further information about the individuals in attendance.” This may explain why individuals, including imams, who were active participants in government outreach programs have found themselves indicted or deported, sending a chill through Muslim communities.

If the government is serious about partnering with Muslim communities, it must stop behaving like an adversary. For starters, community outreach programs should not be exploited to spy on Muslims, recruit undercover informants, and make false promises.

Until the Administration translates its lofty rhetoric into tangible policy reforms, there will not be much difference between Mr. King’s and President Obama’s approaches to counterterrorism.

Sahar Aziz is an associate professor of law at Texas Wesleyan University School of Law and a fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. She is the author of Caught in a Preventive Dragnet: Selective Counterterrorism Against Muslims, Arabs, and South Asiansforthcoming in the Gonzaga Law Review.

Muslim Reality Show, All-American Muslim, To Premiere On TLC

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 25, 2011 by loonwatch

All-American Muslim to Premiere on TLC

Muslim Reality Show, All-American Muslim, To Premiere On TLC 

What’s life like as a Muslim-American?

A new eight-part series on TLC that premieres November 13 will try to answer that question by following the lives of five very different Muslim-American families. The show, “All-American Muslim”, was filmed in Dearborn, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit that’s known for it’s large Arab-American population. It promises to go “inside the rarely seen world of American Muslims to uncover a unique community struggling to balance faith and nationality in a post 9/11 world,” according to a press release.

Producers picked a diverse crowd to profile, from sisters who are polar opposites (one wears a headscarf and prays daily, the other has tattoos –generally frowned upon in Islam – and is married an Irish Catholic) to a high school football coach to newlyweds, in order to show people who “share the same religion, but lead very distinct lives that often times challenge the Muslim stereotype.” The series will also address issues such as the post-9/11 life for Muslims and gender roles in Islam.

The show, which is rare for its focus on Muslims, has generated much buzz in the Muslim-American community as well as non-Muslims. Dawud Walid, the executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said he is looking forward to watching the series.

“It’ll give us a taste of the lives of Muslim-Americans in both their aspirations and concerns. I think the show will be good and humanizing for the Muslim community of Dearborn,” said Walid, who is friends with one of the cast members. Walid cautioned that, in terms of ethnic background, Muslims are “much more diverse than what Dearborn may show. Dearborn is an anomaly in the American Muslim landscape for its large Arab-American population and concentrated Muslim population.”

The first episode of “All-American Muslim” airs at 10 p.m. Eastern time on TLC.

Here is a run-down of the show’s characters, courtesy of TLC.

Suehaila and Shadia: Suehaila wears a traditional headscarf and follows daily prayer rituals – while Shadia, her outspoken sister, is decorated with piercings and tattoos and recently married Jeff, an Irish Catholic who is converting to Islam.

Nader and Nawal: Newlyweds expecting their first baby, Nader and Nawal are working to strike the right balance between their traditional Muslim roots and American culture.

Fouad: As head coach of the Fordson High School football team, Fouad has pioneered a shift in his team’s summer practice schedule by flipping to night workouts from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. since a majority of his team are Muslim and are fasting for Ramadan.

Mike and Angela: Mike, a deputy chief sheriff, and his wife Angela, a consultant to a major auto manufacturer, are juggling their busy careers with raising their four children in a modern Muslim family.

Nina: A strong, independent Muslim businesswoman, Nina’s family runs the premier wedding and banquet hall in Dearborn — but against their advice, she is trying to venture off on her own to open a nightclub.

Samira and Ali: Samira and her husband of seven years, Ali, struggle with fertility issues and are pursuing numerous options including conventional fertility techniques, dietary alternatives and Muslim supplication prayers. After years of unsuccessful attempts, Samira considers putting on the Hijab in order to be closer to God and hopefully be blessed with a child.

Check out a slideshow of some of the cast members below.

CLARIFICATION:An earlier version of this story stated that tattoos are illegal in Islam. This has been clarified to reflect that most Islamic scholars consider tattoos illegal and that the legality is debated among a minority of scholars.

Open Letter to President Obama from a Muslim Family

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 20, 2011 by loonwatch

A good piece from Kari Ansari.

Open Letter to President Obama from a Muslim Family

Dear President Barack Obama,

Along with many American Muslims, my family and I listened to your speech today on the Middle East and North Africa. While I appreciate your encouraging statements to the people of the Muslim world — particularly to those who are currently fighting for dignity and civil rights in their own lands — I also couldn’t help feeling that many Americans are not setting the example of which you spoke when it comes to our own Muslim citizens.

Currently, 20 states have introduced anti-Muslim legislation, with more pending. Some of our country’s lawmakers and politicians have made very bigoted inflammatory comments about Muslims and Islam. Very recently, Tennessee, under extreme pressure, rewrote a bill that would have made it a crime punishable by 15 years in prison for Muslims to worship together in groups of two or more. Organized groups are staging hate rallies against Muslims building houses of worship around the country. Local municipalities are playing the zoning game by zoning Islamic schools and mosques out of the community. Mosque playgrounds are being torched. Muslim family homesproperty, and mosques are being vandalized. Children are being bullied and harassed because they are Muslim. Shockingly, last week the Editor of the Gainesville Times in Florida published a letter that called for the expulsion of all Muslims from America. Recently, several Muslim clerics, and also a young Muslim woman were pulled off airplanes for no other reason other than they were dressed in recognizable Muslim attire. This is all being seen through the modern technology’s “window into the wider world” that you mentioned in your speech, but like all windows, you can also look from the world outside and see what’s happening inside.

What does it say to the world when our President speaks about rights for people in the Muslim world that “include free speech; the freedom of peaceful assembly; freedom of religion” when our own people are being hindered from building mosques, and schools, and our right to worship freely is even being threatened?

Mr. President, Muslims in America know that you do not stand with this kind of bigotry and hatred. During your announcement of the killing of Osama bin Laden you said,

As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not — and never will be — at war with Islam. I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam.

We appreciated this statement, however, judging by the uptick in anti-Muslim incidents since the death of bin Laden, the words weren’t enough to resonate with those in America who feel threatened by their Muslim neighbors.

Mr. President, Muslims need your leadership, your strong voice, and your support in this regard. You are a friend to the world’s Muslims, especially those fighting for their freedom, but Muslims need your friendship here on our own soil. Anti-Islam bigotry is getting worse in America — not better.

In our home, we love and respect you as our President; will you show us the same love and respect as a patriotic American family by speaking out strongly against this growing trend of anti-Muslim bigotry?

Follow Kari Ansari on Twitter: www.twitter.com/KariAnsari