Archive for New Jersey

Cheryl Baisden: Fear Propels Religious Attacks

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 1, 2012 by loonwatch

A very good article by Cheryl Baisden on the movement against sharia, and what they fundamentally don’t understand about American history and law:

Fear Propels Religious Attacks

by Cheryl Baisden (njsbf.org)

A guarantee of religious freedom was what compelled the Pilgrims to risk their lives to cross the Atlantic Ocean and settle along the inhospitable Massachusetts coast in 1620. And yet it didn’t take long for these new inhabitants of America to begin railing against individuals with different religious views and practices. Failing to follow the Puritan way of life could leave you condemned to a dark, dank prison cell; sentenced to a painful and public punishment clamped in the town square’s stockade; or banished from the village altogether.

In those early days of America’s settlement, religious and civil law were one and the same. In fact, each community enforced its own laws, based on the dictates of their church leaders. With the passage of the U.S. Constitution, religious freedom became a right guaranteed to all citizens, explains Grayson Barber, a New Jersey attorney whose practice focuses on individual rights issues.

“The First Amendment says ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…,’” Barber says. “Notice that there are two main provisions, the establishment clause and the free exercise clause. The first makes the United States very unusual. Unlike most countries, the U.S. has no official or ‘established’ church. The free exercise clause provides that in the U.S. we are free to pray wherever and whenever we want, and the government cannot force us to participate in religious activities we disagree with. As a result, the U.S. is the best place in the world to be religious. You can practice any religion you want.”

One religion singled out

In the past few years, however, several states have passed or are considering legislation that would restrict the way followers of one specific religion practice their faith. The legislative movement was launched following

a 2010 family court ruling involving a Moroccan couple in New Jersey, where a Hudson County judge denied a wife a restraining order against her husband because he claimed his alleged sexual assaults on his wife were justified under Islamic religious law, known as sharia law. The ruling was later overturned by the appellate court, which found that the original decision in the case of S.D. v. M.J.R. was based on a misunderstanding of sharia law and its place in the court system. But by then, anti- Islamic groups like the Society of Americans for National Existence were strongly pushing lawmakers around the country for a ban on sharia law.

What is sharia law?

For followers of just about any religion there are certain rules that apply to their faith, from kosher laws among Jewish people to the disapproval of divorce among Catholics. In the same way, sharia is the law that governs certain aspects of everyday life for Muslims.

In an interview with Salon, Abed Awad, a New Jersey attorney who regularly handles Islamic law cases and is an adjunct professor at Rutgers Law School—Newark, explains that sharia is based on the Quran, which is the Muslim Holy Scripture, much like the New Testament is for Catholics and the Old Testament is for Jewish people.

Just like the religious laws in those faiths, sharia focuses on the ways and times followers pray and observe their faith, as well as rules regarding marriage, divorce, child rearing, business dealings and estate matters. These religious laws help followers live within the guidelines of their religion, but don’t take the place of the civil and criminal laws applied by our courts. Awad points out that the appellate ruling in the New Jersey case of S.D. v. M.J.R. was actually “consistent with Islamic law, which prohibits spousal abuse.”

While most people have some familiarity with Jewish and Catholic religious laws because they have been exposed to them for so many years in American culture, sharia is still unfamiliar to many. With an estimated eight million Americans now practicing Islam, sharia is becoming more visible, according to Awad.

“Islam is a major world religion,” explains Barber, “but largely unfamiliar in the U.S. Fear of the unknown is probably lurking behind the hostility to sharia. Of course the shadow of 9/11 is behind much of this, as the hijackers claimed to be Muslim. As we become more familiar with Islam, we will learn that every large group is comprised of a wide variety of people…. Apart from a radical criminal element, Muslims are peaceful, law-abiding people with the same variety of personalities and characteristics you would find in any other population.”

The movement against sharia

The first state to propose legislation against sharia law was Oklahoma, where in November 2010, 70 percent of voters approved an amendment to the state

constitution dictating that the Oklahoma courts “shall not consider international law or sharia law” when making judicial decisions.

Oklahoma State Representative Rex Duncan, one of the bill’s two sponsors, told CNN before the proposal received voter approval, that part of the legislation’s purpose was to ban religious forms of arbitration. “Parties would come to the courts and say we want to be bound by Islamic law and then ask the courts to enforce those agreements,” he said. “That is a backdoor way to get sharia law into courts. There…have been some efforts,

I believe, to explore bringing that to America, and it’s dangerous.”

Read the Rest…

Star-Ledger: Chris Christie, AG wrong to conclude NYPD Muslim probe was justified

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2012 by loonwatch

We are supposed to take Gov. Christie and his Attorney General’s word that the NYPD did nothing wrong when they spied on Muslims in Newark.

Chris Christie, AG wrong to conclude NYPD Muslim probe was justified

(Star-Ledger Editorial Board)

It was disturbing to learn several months ago that the New York Police Department was conducting secret spy missions on Muslims in Newark, building dossiers on their mosques and shops, taking photographs and eavesdropping on their conversations.

It is more disturbing to learn that Gov.Chris Christie and his attorney general, Jeffrey Chiesa, have concluded that it was all justified. Throwing this kind of wide net of surveillance over a community, based on its religion, strikes us as a sloppy overreach of police powers.

Chiesa said Thursday that, after a three-month investigation, he could find no evidence that NYPD officers broke any laws. The NYPD, he says, was acting on legitimate intelligence tips when it began its ethnic mapping project in 2007.

Given the confidential nature of this, the public will never know for sure. But what tip could possibly justify such blanket surveillance of a community based on its religion? Did the tipster suggest all Muslims were dangerous? And if the threat was more specific, why did the search have to be so broad?

Read the rest…

Distrust Lingers Over NYPD Surveillance for Some North Jersey Muslims

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2012 by loonwatch

NYPD

Many Muslims are distrustful of the police because of their profiling actions:

Distrust lingers over NYPD surveillance for some North Jersey Muslims

(NorthJersey.com)

Paterson mosque backs out of a meeting with an FBI official, saying the timing is “too sensitive.”

A community leader who worships in Teaneck says he rarely calls his law enforcement sources anymore.

College students in Piscataway are advised what to do if they are questioned by federal agents.

A sense of anxiety and unease continues to grip some members of the Muslim community in the fallout from the New York Police Department’s surveillance controversy — and that distrust has undermined cooperation with law enforcement agencies that rely on Arab- and Muslim-Americans as partners in the fight against homegrown terrorism, some local leaders say.

“I would tell people not to cooperate,” said Khader Abuassab, a leader of the Arab American Civic Organization in Paterson. “I can’t promise people they will be safe or not be spied on again.”

“You start to wonder after a while: Is everyone out to get us?” said Iqbal Khan, president of the Dar-ul-Islah mosque in Teaneck, noting that people develop a defensiveness that comes from being watched. “Who is going to look after us?”

But some Muslims who live and work in South Paterson said their views of law enforcement have not changed. Samer Abdallah, a business owner, said Muslims have been watched more closely than other communities since Sept. 11, but he does not hold it against police who are doing their jobs.

“We all need law enforcement to help us,” he said. “We’re never going to feel hatred toward those officials. They’re taking orders.”

The NYPD surveillance program targeted Muslims at businesses, universities and mosques, including one in Paterson and several in Newark, as well as student groups at 16 Northeast colleges, including Rutgers University. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Police Department have defended the spying program — first detailed in a series of articles by The Associated Press — as lawful and necessary, while civic groups and some lawmakers have called for investigations into civil rights and jurisdictional matters. The U.S. and New Jersey attorneys general are reviewing the requests, but have made no commitments to investigate.

New Jersey law enforcement officials have expressed fears that any backlash will hurt their counterterrorism operations and information gathering, but NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said the idea that law enforcement operations would be harmed is “preposterous.”

“The notion that somehow the Islamic community or Muslim community at large is a wellspring of information about terrorist plots makes no sense,” Browne said in an interview Tuesday.

He said information about terrorist activity was “closely held” and that it was unfair to assume that average Muslims would have insight into terrorist plots.

“It’s not something they’re telling everybody going to religious services or mentioning it at the grocery store,” he said.

Browne said the NYPD had good relations with the Muslim community that extended from holiday celebrations to sports leagues to police officer recruitment. But for tips on terrorism, he said, police rely on other sources, such as people who rent trucks or sell blasting materials.

“What has been most effective, in terms of bringing terrorists to justice, have been undercover operations,” Browne said.

Law enforcement officials in New Jersey, though, have maintained that cooperation from Muslims is a pivotal part of counterterrorism work. Michael Ward, FBI special agent in charge in Newark, said in March that the agency was losing credibility with Muslims who have embraced and aided the counterterrorism mission, creating “additional risks.”

Muslim-Americans tipped off law enforcement in at least a third of the 161 terror plots discovered since the attacks, a 2011 study by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security found.

“We can’t rely totally on tips from the community, but the community is a force multiplier and I feel their input is vital,” said Maj. Gerald Lewis, head of state police community affairs.

Despite reports of a backlash, Lewis said he has not noticed a shift in attitudes among Muslim leaders and that they continue to meet and talk by phone.

“Our relationship remains strong,” he said.

Mohamed Younes, president of the American Muslim Union in Paterson, also said the relationship hadn’t suffered. He noted that many of New Jersey’s top state and federal law enforcement leaders were at the group’s March 18 annual brunch in Teaneck. They also held a meeting March 3 in Trenton to talk about the surveillance controversy with Muslim leaders.

“I can see they are really committed to try to solve those problems,” Younes said.

But while Mahmoud Attallah, public relations director for the Omar Mosque in Paterson, said he did not blame New Jersey officials for the surveillance, the mosque canceled a meeting with Ward because the timing was “too sensitive.”

The mosque – a target of NYPD surveillance – wanted to avoid negative publicity, he said.

“We didn’t want to press the point just to bring it into the open,” he said.

Still, he wants a review of the surveillance to learn whether detectives had good reasons for watching the Omar Mosque, and the results must be made public, Attallah said.

Fear of authorities is a real concern for immigrants who grew up in countries where police abuses were rampant, said Samar Khalaf, an Arab-American activist from Paramus. Khalaf, who has done frequent outreach with law enforcement, said people are withdrawing as a result of surveillance concerns.

“We’re talking about people who come from nations with no civil rights at all, and who live daily with secret police,” Khalaf said. “They don’t know the difference. They don’t make any distinction. All they know is police are monitoring us.”

Some Muslim leaders are leveraging their power as participants in the fight against terrorism.

Waheed Khalid, a community activist and member of the Dar-ul-Islah mosque in Teaneck, said conversations with law enforcement – from passing on profiling complaints to courtesy calls to requests for information – had slowed.

“I have contacts in law enforcement and we still talk, with much less frequency,” he said.

Aref Assaf of the American Arab Forum suggested in an April 29 column in The Record that the Muslim community boycott law enforcement until they see a commitment to investigate.

“We believe there is a role this community has and must play in combating radicals, but also we think there’s not reciprocity between us and law enforcement in terms of building trust and respect,” he said in an interview.

Concerns about surveillance and civil rights prompted the Rutgers Muslim Student Association to host a “Know Your Rights” session last month at the Piscataway campus. Civil rights lawyer Engy Abdelkader, who led the session, advised students to have an attorney present when questioned by law enforcement so that questions, and answers, are not misinterpreted.

But Abdelkader also said she didn’t agree with calls for a boycott.

“I don’t think it’s justified discontinuing our cooperation with law enforcement,” she said. “I think we have an obligation to cooperate.”

Email: adely@northjersey.com

Claiming Chris Christie Has An ‘Islam Problem,’ Pipes And Emerson Demonstrate NRO’s Islamophobia Problem

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 1, 2012 by loonwatch

Daniel Pipes

Daniel Pipes

(h/t: Frank Gold)

Claiming Chris Christie Has An ‘Islam Problem,’ Pipes And Emerson Demonstrate NRO’s Islamophobia Problem

By Matt Duss on May 1, 2012, ThinkProgress

In National Review, Daniel Pipes and Steven Emerson — two key figures in the Islamophobia network discussed in CAP’s 2011 Fear, Inc report — write that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) “has a problem, specifically an Islam problem, that can and should get in the way of his possible ascent to higher office”:

In short, Christie has hugged a terrorist-organization member, abridged free-speech rights, scorned concern over Islamization, and opposed law-enforcement counterterrorism efforts. Whenever an issue touching on Islam arises, Christie takes the Islamist side against those — the DHS, state senators, the NYPD, even the ACLU — who worry about lawful Islamism eroding the fabric of American life.

A perusal of the authors’ case against Christie reveals it as comically weak, full of highly questionable characterizations and buttressed by links that don’t actually demonstrate what they’re supposed to. In a typical example, they criticize Christie for voicing support for Mohammed Qatanani, imam of the Islamic Center of Passaic County, “on the eve of his deportation hearing for not hiding an Israeli conviction for membership in Hamas.” They do not mention that the hearing resulted in Qatanani being cleared of charges.

Pipes and Emerson knock Christie for his concern over revelations of the New York City Police Department’s spying on New Jersey Muslims, suggesting that he should’ve shown “gratitude” for the NYPD operating outside its jurisdiction.

And of course the authors take special offense at Christie’s bold defense of New Jersey state superior court judge Sohail Mohammed against attacks by anti-Islam activists, in which Christie offered the most cogent summation of the anti-sharia movement on record: “It’s crap. It’s just crazy.”

Pipes and Emerson suggest that there is tension between Christie’s friendly relations with Muslims and his “ostentatiously” pro-Israel stance. “This makes him unusual,” the authors write, “for a pro-Israel stance typically goes hand-in-hand with concern about Shari’a.” But in asserting such a zero-sum relationship between support for Muslim constituents and support for Israel, Pipes and Emerson inadvertently demonstrate two things: First, their own ignorance about Israel. Since its founding, Israel has maintained a publicly-funded Sharia court system for the some 19 percent of Israelis who are Muslim. (Israeli society is fraught with numerous challenges, but imminent takeover by sharia law does not appear to be one of them.) And second, that their real agenda involves creating difficulty for Christie among pro-Israel voters. As with all such smear efforts, the goal here isn’t to actually demonstrate that Christie has done anything wrong, merely to create the sense that there are “troubling questions” about Christie’s views and relationships.

While Pipes and Emerson fail to demonstrate that Chris Christie has an “Islam problem,” they succeed in demonstrating that National Review still has an Islamophobia problem. Last month the magazine took important steps to rid itself of two writers who had expressed bigoted views toward African-Americans. It’s long past time that National Review do the same with those of its writers expressing similar views toward Muslim Americans.

Updates on Anti-Sharia’ Legislation: South Dakota Signs, Florida Drops, New Jersey Withdraws

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , on March 16, 2012 by loonwatch

South Dakota’s governor signs a law that says it targets “religious law” but which in fact was drafted to target Muslims:

South Dakota Governor Signs Unconstitutional Anti-Muslim Bill

By Ian Millhiser

Yesterday, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) signed an unconstitutional law that purports to target courts applying religious law, but which is almost certainly part of a broader push by Islamophobic advocates to fight the imaginary problem of courts substituting Islamic law for American law. The brief bill Daugaard signed provides simply that “[n]o court, administrative agency, or other governmental agency may enforce any provisions of any religious code.”

Although this bill does not specifically call out any particular religion for ill treatment, it violates the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution. As the Supreme Court explained in Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. Hialeah, “the protections of the Free Exercise Clause pertain if the law at issue discriminates against some or all religious beliefs or regulates or prohibits conduct because it is undertaken for religious reasons.”

While it is uncommon for American courts to apply religious law, it is not unheard of. Private parties sometimes enter into contracts where they agree to resolve their disputes under something other than U.S. law, and individuals sometimes write wills devising their property according to the tenets of their faith. Under the bill Daugaard signed, however, courts will be allowed to enforce contracts requiring disputes to be resolved under French law or ancient Roman law or under the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons second edition rules, but they won’t be allowed to enforce contracts requiring disputes to be resolved under the requirements of someone’s religious beliefs. This is discrimination “against some or all religious beliefs,” and is therefore unconstitutional.

Some good news from New Jersey:

NJ Becomes Latest State To Drop Anti-Shariah Bill

by 

Among a series of setbacks for the McCarthyist-style anti-Shariah movement, New Jersey became the newest state to drop its ridiculous A-919 bill penned to prohibit the application of “foreign laws”.

Fabricating an imaginary threat of an impending Shariah law that would somehow take over each US state, leading Islamophobes met with initial success as they attempted to influence various lawmakers into considering such a bill for implementation.

As of late however, anti-Muslim hate tactics appear to be falling flat on their face as NJ becomes the latest state – after GA, FL & MN – to withdraw its so-called foreign law bill drafted to protect it from the non-existent Shariah threat.

New Jersey need not follow other states that have either passed or attempted to pass similar legislation that has the principal objective of demonizing the faith of millions of American Muslims,” said Dr. Aref Assaf, president of the American Arab Forum.

CAIR-NJ Chair Nadia Kahf had the following to add, “Rather than strengthening constitutional protections, these bills undoubtedly violate religious freedom and weaken the independence of our courts.”

We thank Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi for her decision in support of religious freedom and constitutional rights.”

And some surprising and even more good news from Flordia:

Anti-Shariah bill died when session ended

A critic of the unsuccessful Florida bill to ban Shariah law and other foreign legal codes says its failure to pass is evidence of turning public tides on such measures, though a sponsor is promising to try bringing it back.

Though the bill easily passed the House, it was never called for a vote by the full Senate before the Legislature closed its session, effectively killing the legislation for the year.

“I think we may be seeing the tide turn on this wave of anti-Shariah bills around the country,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which opposes such legislation.

A wave of anti-Shariah bills have been introduced in statehouses across the country. Several have stalled or failed, but dozens more await a verdict.

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed a foreign law measure Monday, the first victory among advocates for such laws this session.

Three other states — Louisiana, Arizona and Tennessee — previously approved legislation curtailing the use of foreign laws.

Florida’s bill made no mention of Shariah law or any other specific foreign system. It said the use of foreign law would be banned in state courtrooms when it violates rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, and in certain domestic situations, such as divorces and child custody cases. It would not have applied to businesses.

Opponents called the law unnecessary and anti-Muslim. Muslim groups were joined by the Anti-Defamation League, a defender of Jewish causes, in their opposition.

“You might as well pass legislation to ban unicorns,” Hooper said. “If it wasn’t so destructive to interfaith relations, to our image around the world, to our commitment to religious and constitutional rights, it would be laughable.”

The most fervently outspoken supporters of such bills caution Shariah law could begin to spread outside of Muslim countries in a slow-speed Islamic takeover of the world. Others say not outlawing Shariah jeopardizes the rights of American women.

Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, who sponsored the Senate bill, said though “wild accusations” have been made about what the legislation would do, its purpose was to ensure only American laws are heard in Florida courtrooms.

“I expect to file the bill again next year if I’m fortunate enough to be blessed by the people of Florida with another term, and I expect it to pass next year,” Hays said.

Gov. Chris Christie Slams Islamophobic Criticism of Sohail Mohammad

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 9, 2011 by loonwatch

Unfortunately there aren’t many other GOP leaders willing to take the stand that Chris Christie did.

Gov. Christie’s stand is a sigh of relief in an age of Islamophobiapalooza, especially from a high profile GOP official. Sadly, Gov.Christie’s righteous stand for Sohail Mohammad is an exception in today’s politics.

This incident also further highlights the shoddy work of Islamophobe Steven Emerson, who is caught once again being full of BS.

N.J. Governor: ‘This Shariah law business is crap’

Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday slammed the anti-Muslim “crazies” who have raised objections to his nomination of a Muslim lawyer to become a state Superior Court judge.

“Ignorance is behind the criticism of Sohail Mohammad,” Christie said in response to a reporter’s question at a Thursday press conference. “Sohail Mohammad is an extraordinary American who is an outstanding lawyer and played an integral role in the post-September 11th period in building bridges between the Muslim American community in this state and law enforcement.”

Critics have used the very track record Christie cited to depict Mohammad, an Indian-American, as a radical unfit for the bench. Steve Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism in January derided Mohammad as a “longtime mouthpiece for radical Islamists”. Emerson traced Mohammad’s career back to his work as an immigration lawyer on behalf of Arab men who were detained after 9/11.

Christie pointed out that many people were wrongly arrested during that time, and that none of Mohammad’s post-9/11 clients were charged with crimes of terrorism. Christie added that Mohammad set up “dozens of meetings” between government and law enforcement officials and members of the Muslim-American community to build lines of trust.

A reporter asked Christie a question about Shariah law, which only fired up the governor’s frustration. “Shariah law has nothing to do with this at all. It’s crazy. It’s crazy. The guy is an American citizen … and has never been accused of doing anything but honorably and zealously acquitting the oath he took when he became a lawyer…. This Shariah law business is crap. It’s just crazy. And I’m tired of dealing with the crazies. It’s just unnecessary to be accusing this guy of things just because of his religious background…. I’m happy that he’s willing to serve after all this baloney.”

Hatewatch, 4 August 2011

Fencer With Headscarf Is a Cut Above the Rest

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 2, 2011 by loonwatch

Olympic hopeful Ibtihaj Muhammad will compete this weekend.

Fencer With Headscarf Is a Cut Above the Rest

By AIMEE BERG

When Ibtihaj Muhammad fastens her headscarf, or hijab, around her chin, one of its purposes is to deflect unwanted attention.

But when she wears a hijab in a sporting arena, it often has the opposite effect.

The New Jersey native is currently ranked 11th in the world in women’s sabre, a discipline of fencing. Only one American ranks higher: Mariel Zagunis, the two-time Olympic and world champion.

Both women will compete this weekend at a World Cup fencing event at the New York Athletic Club to earn points toward qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic Committee do not track athletes’ religion, but if Muhammad makes the Olympic team, she would likely be the first practicing Muslim woman to represent the U.S. at the Games.

When she competes, photographers often zoom in on the name Muhammad on the back of her fencing jacket. Her mother, Denise, recently saw such a photo and said, “I realized: my God, she’s representing all of us.