Archive for New York City

Muslima Fashionista: High fashion and modesty—clashing ideals, or can it actually work?

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , on February 26, 2012 by loonwatch
Muslima Fashionista
Model for Underwraps Agency, NYC

There is no shortage of controversy about how Muslim women should dress.

Some argue Muslim women need to adopt Western-style fashion if they want to assimilate and flourish in Western culture. Others insist that modest dress is a non-negotiable article of the their faith, and challenge Western democracies to demonstrate their much-vaunted commitment to freedom by making room for everything from headscarves to burqas.

Is modest dress oppressive, or does it free women from superficial notions of beauty and command respect?  As the debate rages on, some Muslim women have staked the middle ground, where modest dress and fashion-forward styles are viewed as perfectly compatible.

A New York City modeling agency has brought bold interpretations of Islamic dress to the catwalk, turning heads and challenging stereotypes in the world of high fashion and beyond.

Modesty x Couture | New Muslim Modeling Agency in NYC

By Ada Lee, Schema Magazine

The American-born Muslim designer Nailah Lymus seeks out to bridge the gap between fashion and modesty. She does so by launching a new modeling agency in New York City for Muslim models.

The agency, Underwraps, will represent aspiring models that wish to work in the mainstream fashion industry without having to compromise their faith-led belief of modesty in dress. According to Lymus, it is a belief that requires clothes to be loose and not shape revealing, and that the only body parts that can be visible are your face, hands and feet.

“Being modest isn’t just a Muslim concept; it crosses many religions and cultures,” says Lymus. “Beautiful women who have always wanted to venture on to the catwalk but have declined because of their beliefs now have a chance.” Lymus’ goal with Underwraps, to me, seems to be creating a new space for reconciling concepts that are seemingly conflicting.

Lymus attracted attention when she first launched her line of clothing “Amirah Creations” last year. Her designs are hot but they’re also trail blazing—she’s determined to break stereotypes and limitations of what Muslim women can wear, and ultimately, how they can fit in without forfeiting their identities.

UnderwrapsUnderwraps Model

How will this agency fare in an industry where flesh-baring models are the standard? Judging by the comments online, it seems like everybody has their own idea of what modesty, Islam, modeling, and high fashion should be about. Many are skeptical of whether it’ll survive. Others are saying that there is no market for modest fashion.

But if fashion is an expression of the self, then what Lymus is doing resonates in Schema—Underwraps is to Muslim models as Schema is to hyphenated Canadians. It’s a space where 1st/2nd/3rd generations can navigate through cultures without having to compromise, without having to choose simply being one or the other.

So I say, you go, girl.

Ada Lee is a sixth year Human Geography/International Relations student who is interested in people and what makes them tick. The list ranges from social justice to astrology. She tries to get by in life by getting high on ideas, breathing deeply, and dreaming vividly. Follow 0415ADA at your own risk.

‘Blow Away’ Text Lands Muslim in Canada Jail

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , on February 7, 2012 by loonwatch

‘Blow Away’ Text Lands Muslim in Canada Jail 

MONTREAL — A Muslim businessman in Canada became a terror suspect for telling his sales staff in a text message to “blow away” the competition at a New York City trade show, a religious association said Friday.

Moroccan-born Saad Allami, who works as a telecommunications company sales manager, was arrested three days after he sent the message in January 2011 and detained while police searched his home, said the Muslim Council of Montreal.

“The whole time, the officers kept repeating to the plaintiff’s wife that her husband was a terrorist,” said court filings in a lawsuit filed by Allami, cited by local media. Allami was released after four hours of questioning.

Some of his colleagues reportedly claimed they were also held for hours at the Canada-US border on account of the accusations made against their boss.

“Mr Allami’s statements, when considered in the context of which they were given, were nothing to draw such alarm or suspicion,” said Salam Elmenyawi, president of the Muslim Council of Montreal.

“It is clear that his arrest was the result of racial profiling and a knee-jerk reaction to label him as a terror suspect simply due to his religious background.”

Allami is seeking Can$100,000 ($100,603) from Quebec’s provincial police, a police sergeant and the justice department for unlawful detention, unlawful arrest, loss of income and damage to his reputation.

The Quebec Superior Court is to hear the case on March 5.

New York Muslims Refuse to Attend Mayor Bloomberg’s Breakfast with Bagels

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 29, 2011 by loonwatch
The letter said Michael Bloomberg had 'defended the NYPD misconduct'. Photograph: Henny Ray Abrams/Reuters The letter said Michael Bloomberg had ‘defended the NYPD misconduct’. Photograph: Henny Ray Abrams/Reuters

New York Muslims to snub Bloomberg breakfast in surveillance protest

A group of prominent Muslim figures in New York City have said they will boycott an annual meeting on Friday with Mayor Michael Bloomberg in order to protest against police surveillance of their communities.

Bloomberg is scheduled to hold a multi-faith “Bagels with Bloomberg” breakfast with religious leaders from across the city on Friday morning, but the group has written to the mayor’s office outlining their reasons for refusing to attend.

In particular, the group says it is outraged at details that emerged earlier this year of a concerted effort by the New York police department to monitor activities of Muslims in New York. A series of reports by the Associated Press detailed the activities of a unit within the NYPD, called the Demographics Unit, that monitored daily life in Muslim communities, including eavesdropping in businesses and infiltrating mosques.

“According to the investigation, the police department monitored and collected information on New Yorkers at about 250 mosques, schools, and businesses throughout the city, simply because of their religion and not because they exhibited suspicious behavior,” the letter said.

It added: “Mayor Bloomberg, the extent of these civil rights violations is astonishing, yet instead of calling for accountability and the rule of law, you have thus far defended the NYPD’s misconduct. We, on the other hand, believe that such measures threaten the rights of all Americans, and deepen mistrust between our communities and law enforcement.”

The letter was signed by 15 prominent Muslim New Yorkers, including Khaled Lamada, head of the Muslim American Society, Omar Mohammedi, president of the Association of Muslim American Lawyers, Aisha al-Adawiya, founder of Women in Islam, and Iman Al Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid, who president of the Islamic Leadership Council of New York.

Another signatory, Linda Sarsour, the director of the Arab-American Association of New York, told the Guardian that the AP reports had confirmed her worst fears. “This confirmed what we already knew. It gave validity to our concerns that we are being spied upon just because of our religion. That undermines the security of all New Yorkers,” Sarsour said.

Sarsour added that lawsuits against the NYPD were being considered in the wake of the AP investigation, and called for an independent inquiry into the activities of the department when it came to monitoring Muslim communities.

So far, that call has fallen on deaf ears. Senior police figures have denied that they targeted Muslim communities in general, claiming they only followed leads. Bloomberg has also strongly and consistently backed the city’s police department and its tactics.

An investigation by the CIA had looked at its role in helping the NYPD and recently concluded no wrongdoing had taken place.

But Sarsour remained unsatisfied.

“How can someone from the CIA be the one to investigate the CIA? We are asking for an independent investigation,” she said, saying it should be carried out by the Department of Justice or a Congressional committee.

A spokesman for the mayor’s office downplayed the impact of the letter and the boycott, saying that other Muslim leaders were still planning on attending the breakfast gathering. “We have a couple dozen Muslim community leaders who have RSVP-ed that they will be at the breakfast, which is about the same as previous years,” said Stu Loeser.

NYPD officials also weighed into the spat, saying that the AP story had exaggerated its activities. “The NYPD lawfully follows leads in terrorist-related investigations and does not engage in the kind of wholesale spying on communities that was false alleged,” said Paul Browne, an NYPD deputy commissioner.

But the revelations about the Demographics Unit are not the only controversy surrounding NYPD actions around Muslim Americans and terrorism. An NYPD operation last month arrested a suspected “lone wolf” terrorist in the shape of New Yorker Jose Pimentel. NYPD officials hailed the arrest, which occurred after a lengthy undercover operation that saw an NYPD informant supply Pimental with bomb-making equipment, as a major triumph.

However, it later emerged that the FBI had passed on co-operating on the case, because it believed the target was not a viable threat. That has led to accusations that the NYPD “entrapped” Pimental.

Michael Powell: Police Eyes Hovering Over Muslims

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 21, 2011 by loonwatch

NYPD

“In our society, government is supposed to be public and you’re supposed to have a private life,” Moustafa Bayoumi, an English professor at Brooklyn College, said. “We’ve flipped that on its head.”

Police Eyes Hovering Over Muslims

By MICHAEL POWELL (NewYorkTimes)

Hello to you, and to whoever might be spying on us tonight.

This is how some Muslim New Yorkers have grown accustomed to opening meetings, on campus and at mosques from Steinway Street in Queens to Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Their assumption is that someone is always listening for hints of frustration and anger and disloyalty.

And that the listener works for the New York Police Department.

“In our society, government is supposed to be public and you’re supposed to have a private life,” Moustafa Bayoumi, an English professor at Brooklyn College, said. “We’ve flipped that on its head.”

The temptation is to dismiss such fears as post-9/11 paranoia. But The Associated Press, in a startling series, and the dependable Leonard Levitt, who writes the NYPD Confidential Web site, have put substantial meat on the bone of these suspicions.

They found that undercover officers, known as rakers, infiltrated hundreds of mosques; that a secret demographic unit compiled extensive dossiers on where Muslim New Yorkers eat, work, type on computers and transfer money to relatives; and that even imams who worked closely and courageously with the police have found themselves spied on and listed as “suspects.”

The Police Department’s reach extends to India, Pakistan and the Middle East, and less exotically to New Jersey, where undercover police cells have taken roost. And the department works with the F.B.I. and, more controversially, the C.I.A. in a way that sounds less fraternal than like a blood marriage.

Recently, the C.I.A. sent what The A.P. described as “one of its most senior clandestine officers” to work at One Police Plaza. It is highly unusual and troubling for the C.I.A. to work so closely with a police department.

So how should we parse these deeply unsettling findings? We live in an age of moral murk. It is to diminish none of the power of The A.P.’s work to acknowledge that some revelations fall into moral shadow rather than a Manichean play of pitch darkness and light.

Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly vibrates with certitude. He watched those towers transformed into calamitous clouds of dust. He learned of profound federal intelligence failures and bristles with a determination not to go there again.

“We’re paid to think the unthinkable,” Mr. Kelly told the City Council at a hearing 11 days ago. “We want to know how individuals traveling here communicate and conceal themselves. We go where the leads take us.”

I get that. The word “if” dominated our lives for many months after 9/11. Shortly afterward, my wife and I decided not to send our son to a fine public middle school in Lower Manhattan, for fear of having him too far removed from our Brooklyn home if. …

And I have felt a bubbling up of impatience with some religious leaders. The Al Farooq Mosque in Brooklyn was briefly home to the Blind Sheik, Omar Abdel Rahman, who helped plot the attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, and since then other radicals are reported to have passed through. Does anyone there tend the door?

Councilman Brad Lander is one of those wrestling thoughtfully with such questions. But as he put pointed questions to Mr. Kelly at the hearing, the answers were illuminating in not terribly comforting ways.

It sounds, Mr. Lander said, as if you’re engaged in religious and ethnic profiling.

The commissioner shrugged. “I wouldn’t believe everything that I read,” he replied.

This fell well short of candor, which is unfortunate at a time when the police brass ask us to give them something like blind trust in their intentions. Afterward, an A.P. reporter asked, point-blank, Can you point to specific factual inaccuracies in our reporting?

And the commissioner replied: No.

This pattern recurs. Paul J. Browne, the department’s chief spokesman, has a tendency to emphatically deny what has certifiably happened, whether the spying on and locking up of demonstrators for days at the Republican National Convention, or these recent revelations.

Credibility is like sand flowing through an hourglass. It runs out.

Professor Bayoumi rides subways and elevators and understands terrible possibilities. “I understand there need to be investigations,” he said. “But to base it on religious beliefs and what someone says at a meeting, rather than on actual leads …”

He paused, frustrated. “It weakens the bonds in a community and corrodes trust. Is that useful?”

E-mail: powellm@nytimes.com

NYDailyNews: Imam Attacked on Subway in Hate Crime

Posted in Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 9, 2010 by loonwatch

Hate? Islamophobia? Oh no, it doesn’t exist! This Imam had it coming because he dared to be a Mooslim!

Two men accused in subway imam attack hit with hate crime charges

(NYDailyNews)


Two men accused of attacking a Muslim religious leader in a Manhattan subway station were the targets Thursday of a hate-crimes investigation.

The unidentified imam claimed the two men called him a “terrorist” and yelled ethnic and religious slurs when they assaulted him at the Canal  Street station early Wednesday, sources said.

Eddie Crespo, 28, of Staten Island, was charged with third degree assault as a hate crime and two counts of second degree robbery, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office said.

Albert Melendez, 30, of Manhattan, is expected to be arraigned later Thursday.

The incident happened at 3:25 a.m. on the northbound A-train platform, prosecutors said.

csiemaszko@nydailynews.com

 

Uproar Over Muslim Center Echoes Protest Against Church in 1785

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , on October 7, 2010 by loonwatch

Interesting historical perspective on the Muslim center to be built in New York.

200 year-old echoes in Muslim Center uproar (New York Times)

Many New Yorkers were suspicious of the newcomers’ plans to build a house of worship in Manhattan. Some feared the project was being underwritten by foreigners. Others said the strangers’ beliefs were incompatible with democratic principles.

Concerned residents staged demonstrations, some of which turned bitter.

But cooler heads eventually prevailed; the project proceeded to completion. And this week, St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in Lower Manhattan — the locus of all that controversy two centuries ago and now the oldest Catholic church in New York State — is celebrating the 225th anniversary of the laying of its cornerstone.

The Rev. Kevin V. Madigan, who is the pastor of St. Peter’s, said that when he began reading about the history of his church early this year in preparation for the Oct. 5 anniversary, he was not initially struck by the parallels between the opposition it had faced and what present-day Muslims have encountered in proposing a community center and mosque near ground zero.

“There was no controversy when they first proposed it, and we were just pleased to have a new neighbor,” said Father Madigan, whose church, at Barclay and Church Streets, sits two blocks from 51 Park Place, the site of the proposed Islamic center. Both are roughly equidistant from the construction zone at ground zero.

But as an uproar enveloped the Islamic project over the summer, the priest said he was startled by how closely the arguments and parries of the project’s opponents mirrored those brought against St. Peter’s in 1785.

Father Madigan detailed those similarities in a letter to parishioners over the summer, in two sermons he delivered at an interfaith gathering last month and at a special Mass last Sunday marking the church’s anniversary.

For starters, he said, there was the effort to move the church project somewhere else.

City officials in 18th-century New York urged project organizers to change the church’s initial location, on Broad Street, in what was then the heart of the city, to a site outside the city limits, at Barclay and Church. Unlike the organizers of Park51, who have resisted suggestions they move the project to avoid having a mosque so close to the killing field of ground zero, the Catholics complied.

Then there were fears about nefarious foreign backers. Just as some opponents of Park51 have said that the $100 million-plus project will be financed by the same Saudi sheiks who bankroll terrorists, many early-American Protestants saw the pope as the sworn enemy of democracy, and feared that his followers’ little church would be the bridgehead of a papal assault on the new United States government.

The Park51 organizers say they will not accept any foreign backing. But with about only 200 Catholics in New York in the late 1700s, most of them poor, St. Peter’s Church would not have been built without a handsome gift from a foreigner — and a papist at that — $1,000 from King Charles III of Spain.

The angry eruptions at some of the demonstrations this summer against the proposed Muslim center — with signs and slogans attacking Islam — were not as vehement as those staged against St. Peter’s, Father Madigan said.

On Christmas Eve 1806, two decades after the church was built, the building was surrounded by Protestants incensed at a celebration going on inside — a religious observance then viewed in the United States as an exercise in “popish superstition,” more commonly referred to as Christmas. Protesters tried to disrupt the service. In the melee that ensued, dozens of people were injured and a policeman was killed.

“We were treated as second-class citizens; we were viewed with suspicion,” Father Madigan wrote in his letter to parishioners, adding, “Many of the charges being leveled at Muslim-Americans today are the same as those once leveled at our forebears.”

The pastor said that Park51’s organizers would have to “make clear that they are in no way sympathetic to or supported by any ideology antithetical to our American ideals, which I am sure they can do.” But he said Catholic New Yorkers have a special obligation to fulfill.

The discrimination suffered by the first Catholics in America, he said, “ought to be an incentive for us to ensure that similar indignities not be inflicted on more recent arrivals.”

Cabbie-Stabber had “anti-Muslim” Diary

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2010 by loonwatch

So much for the claims of Spencer-Geller that this was probably staged by Muslims to get sympathy from unwitting Americans.

Michael Enright, cabbie-stabber, had “anti-Muslim” diary

By Alex Pareene

Michael Enright, the raging drunk who nearly killed a Muslim cab-driver in Manhattan this week, is being held without bail following his arraignment on hate crime charges. Enright, a film student, is finishing a documentary about Marines serving in Afghanistan, where he was embedded earlier this year for 35 days.

Enright stabbed the man after an apparently civil conversation about the driver’s Muslim faith. Then Enright allegedly yelled, “This is the checkpoint,” and slashed the drivers throat and arm.

According to friends, Enright was usually kind and mild-mannered. He volunteered with Intersections International, a liberal organization dedicated to religious tolerance and peace.

“The person who volunteered for us is a really good guy,” Intersections International executive director Rev. Robert Chase told the media. “He’s responsible, he’s been generous, he’s concerned about the issues in the world.”

“He’s a really nice guy to be around,” a college friend told the New York Post. “He’s a great kid,” a neighbor said.

But: Enright was arrested twice last year, for disorderly conduct and underage drinking. According to the Post: “College friends said Enright had been sober for the last year.”

And a friend tells the Daily News that Enright had seemed troubled and angry since his return from Afghanistan.

The Daily News also reports that cops found a diary on Enright that was filled with anti-Muslim rantings:

When he was arrested Tuesday in midtown, Enright had a personal diary filled with pages of “pretty strong anti-Muslim comments,” a police source said.

The source said Enright’s journal equated Muslims with “killers, ungrateful for the help they were being offered, filthy murderers without a conscience.”

So. He’s a complicated character. Possible alcoholism, possible PTSD.

Ahmed Sharif, the driver, described the terrifying attack to the local media. He’ll go to city hall to meet Mayor Bloomberg later today.

  • Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon. Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene More Alex Pareene

 

Mayor Bloomberg: Candidate for Anti-Loon of the Year

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , on August 25, 2010 by loonwatch

Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg is a candidate for anti-Loon of the year due to his consistent defense of religious liberty and steadfast support of the political hot-potato issue of the Park51 Cultural Center, aka the “Ground Zero Mosque.”

Bloomberg Launches Another Impassioned Defense Of Cordoba House

by Sam Stein

In a rousing address before a predominantly Muslim audience Tuesday night, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg reaffirmed his commitment to the controversial Islamic cultural center near the former site of the World Trade Center.

Bloomberg, who hosted the annual Ramadan Iftar dinner at his official Gracie Mansion residence, did not back away from his position as the most vocal and public defender of the so-called “Ground Zero mosque.” If anything, he couched his defense of the project in even deeper moral and political terms, calling the Cordoba House a telling illustration of intrinsic American principles and a valuable tool in the war on terror.

From Bloomberg’s prepared remarks:

But if we say that a mosque and community center should not be built near the perimeter of the World Trade Center site, we would compromise our commitment to fighting terror with freedom.

We would undercut the values and principles that so many heroes died protecting. We would feed the false impressions that some Americans have about Muslims. We would send a signal around the world that Muslim Americans may be equal in the eyes of the law, but separate in the eyes of their countrymen. And we would hand a valuable propaganda tool to terrorist recruiters, who spread the fallacy that America is at war with Islam.
Islam did not attack the World Trade Center — Al-Qaeda did. To implicate all of Islam for the actions of a few who twisted a great religion is unfair and un-American. Today we are not at war with Islam — we are at war with Al-Qaeda and other extremists who hate freedom.[snip]

The members of our military are men and women at arms — battling for hearts and minds. And their greatest weapon in that fight is the strength of our American values, which have always inspired people around the world. But if we do not practice here at home what we preach abroad — if we do not lead by example – we undermine our soldiers. We undermine our foreign policy objectives. And we undermine our national security.

While some of the cultural center’s other early supporters have backed away from their defense of the project, Bloomberg has emerged as perhaps the least fickle of its supporters. And he’s been hailed for that defense — locally, nationally and among the commentariat — even though a majority of the public opposes the Cordoba House’s proposed location.

Addressing those calling for a compromise location for the center, Bloomberg offered the logical rejoinder. “The question will then become, how big should the ‘no-mosque zone’ around the World Trade Center be?” he remarked. “There is already a mosque four blocks away. Should it too, be moved?”

However the debate ends, of course, there will be hard feelings. Still, the Mayor ended his remarks with an appeal to the lessons of history.

I know that many in this room are disturbed and dispirited by the debate. But it is worth keeping some perspective on the matter. The first colonial settlers came to these shores seeking religious liberty and the founding fathers wrote a constitution that guaranteed it. They made sure that in this country the government would not be permitted to choose between religions or favor one over another.

Nonetheless, it was not so long ago that Jews and Catholics had to overcome stereotypes and build bridges to those who viewed them with suspicion and less than fully American.

UPDATE: Video of Bloomberg’s speech is below.

 

Mayor Bloomberg Gives Stirring Defense of Religious Freedom

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 4, 2010 by loonwatch

I haven’t been the biggest fan of Michael Bloomberg, but I have to commend him for his stance on the Park 51 Cordoba Center and Mosque. It wasn’t easy.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXm_fUDfJZQ 350 300]

Michael Bloomberg delivers stirring defense of mosque

by Justin Elliot

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has emerged as the unlikely but passionate defender of the plannedMuslim community center near ground zero, today traveled to Governors Island off the tip of Lower Manhattan to deliver a stirring plea for sanity in what he called “[as] important a test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetimes.”

The Daily News’ Adam Lisberg reports that Bloomberg choked up at one point as he delivered the speech surrounded by religious leaders of different faiths, with the Statue of Liberty in the background.

Rather than attack the bigotry of the opponents of the so-called “ground zero mosque,” Bloomberg made several positive arguments for building the center. He traced the struggle for religious freedom in New York and affirmed the rights of citizens to do as they please with their private property:

The simple fact is, this building is private property, and the owners have a right to use the building as a house of worship, and the government has no right whatsoever to deny that right. And if it were tried, the courts would almost certainly strike it down as a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question: Should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here.

It’s worth noting that three Jewish leaders  — Rabbi Bob Kaplan from the Jewish Community Council, Rabbi Irwin Kula from the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, and Cara Berkowitz from the UJA Federation — were present with Bloomberg during the speech, despite the Anti-Defamation League’s opposition to the project. Below is the full text. Video of the speech is here.

“We’ve come here to Governors Island to stand where the earliest settlers first set foot in New Amsterdam, and where the seeds of religious tolerance were first planted. We come here to see the inspiring symbol of liberty that more than 250 years later would greet millions of immigrants in this harbor. And we come here to state as strongly as ever, this is the freest city in the world. That’s what makes New York special and different and strong.

“Our doors are open to everyone. Everyone with a dream and a willingness to work hard and play by the rules. New York City was built by immigrants, and it’s sustained by immigrants — by people from more than 100 different countries speaking more than 200 different languages and professing every faith. And whether your parents were born here or you came here yesterday, you are a New Yorker.

“We may not always agree with every one of our neighbors. That’s life. And it’s part of living in such a diverse and dense city. But we also recognize that part of being a New Yorker is living with your neighbors in mutual respect and tolerance. It was exactly that spirit of openness and acceptance that was attacked on 9/11, 2001.

“On that day, 3,000 people were killed because some murderous fanatics didn’t want us to enjoy the freedoms to profess our own faiths, to speak our own minds, to follow our own dreams, and to live our own lives. Of all our precious freedoms, the most important may be the freedom to worship as we wish. And it is a freedom that even here — in a city that is rooted in Dutch tolerance — was hard-won over many years.

“In the mid-1650s, the small Jewish community living in lower Manhattan petitioned Dutch governor Peter Stuyvesant for the right to build a synagogue, and they were turned down. In 1657, when Stuyvesant also prohibited Quakers from holding meetings, a group of non-Quakers in Queens signed the Flushing Remonstrance, a petition in defense of the right of Quakers and others to freely practice their religion. It was perhaps the first formal political petition for religious freedom in the American colonies, and the organizer was thrown in jail and then banished from New Amsterdam.

“In the 1700s, even as religious freedom took hold in America, Catholics in New York were effectively prohibited from practicing their religion, and priests could be arrested. Largely as a result, the first Catholic parish in New York City was not established until the 1780s, St. Peter’s on Barclay Street, which still stands just one block north of the World Trade Center site, and one block south of the proposed mosque and community center.

“This morning, the city’s Landmark Preservation Commission unanimously voted to extend — not to extend — landmark status to the building on Park Place where the mosque and community center are planned. The decision was based solely on the fact that there was little architectural significance to the building. But with or without landmark designation, there is nothing in the law that would prevent the owners from opening a mosque within the existing building.

“The simple fact is, this building is private property, and the owners have a right to use the building as a house of worship, and the government has no right whatsoever to deny that right. And if it were tried, the courts would almost certainly strike it down as a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

“Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question: Should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here.

“This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions or favor one over another. The World Trade Center site will forever hold a special place in our city, in our hearts. But we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans if we said no to a mosque in lower Manhattan.

“Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11, and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values and play into our enemies’ hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists, and we should not stand for that.

“For that reason, I believe that this is an important test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetimes, as important a test. And it is critically important that we get it right.

“On Sept. 11, 2001, thousands of first responders heroically rushed to the scene and saved tens of thousands of lives. More than 400 of those first responders did not make it out alive. In rushing into those burning buildings, not one of them asked, ‘What God do you pray to?’ (Bloomberg’s voice cracks here a little as he gets choked up.) ‘What beliefs do you hold?’

“The attack was an act of war, and our first responders defended not only our city, but our country and our constitution. We do not honor their lives by denying the very constitutional rights they died protecting. We honor their lives by defending those rights and the freedoms that the terrorists attacked.

“Of course, it is fair to ask the organizers of the mosque to show some special sensitivity to the situation, and in fact their plan envisions reaching beyond their walls and building an interfaith community. But doing so, it is my hope that the mosque will help to bring our city even closer together, and help repudiate the false and repugnant idea that the attacks of 9/11 were in any ways consistent with Islam.

“Muslims are as much a part of our city and our country as the people of any faith. And they are as welcome to worship in lower Manhattan as any other group. In fact, they have been worshipping at the site for better, the better part of a year, as is their right. The local community board in lower Manhattan voted overwhelmingly to support the proposal. And if it moves forward, I expect the community center and mosque will add to the life and vitality of the neighborhood and the entire city.

“Political controversies come and go, but our values and our traditions endure, and there is no neighborhood in this city that is off-limits to God’s love and mercy, as the religious leaders here with us can attest.”

 

Federal Body: Daniel Pipes et al. are “Extremist Sources”

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 14, 2010 by loonwatch

Richard SilversteinRichard Silverstein

EEOC Finds Bias in NYC Firing Arab School Principal, Almontaser

by Richard Silverstein

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that the New York City Department of Education (DOE) discriminated against Debbie Almontaser, founding principal of the Khalil Gibran Academy, the City’s first Arab-language public school, when they removed her from her position. Readers of this blog may recall a ferocious campaign waged by Jewish neocons and Islamophobes like Daniel Pipes, David Yerushalmi, the N.Y. Post, and Stop the Madrasa against the school and Almontaser personally.

Matters came to a head when Almontaser was smeared over a T-shirt displaying the word “Intifada.” Her opponents made her out to be a supporter of Islamism and armed resistance because she explained the Arabic meaning of the word to a reporter, while not denouncing it sufficiently. When Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein dropped her like a hot potato, her days were numbered. After her forced resignation, she sued and lost. Then she filed a claim with EEOC for discrimination. TheN.Y. Times reports on the finding:

A federal commission has determined that New York City’s Department of Education discriminated against the founding principal of an Arabic-language public school by forcing her to resign in 2007 following a storm of controversy driven by opponents of the school.

Acting on a complaint filed last year by the principal, Debbie Almontaser, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that the department “succumbed to the very bias that creation of the school was intended to dispel and a small segment of the public succeeded in imposing its prejudices on D.O.E. as an employer,” according to a letter issued by the commission on Tuesday.

The commission said that the department had discriminated against Ms. Almontaser, a Muslim of Yemeni descent, “on account of her race, religion and national origin.”

This is a great deal for civil rights in New York and in America. It is a day that Arab-Americans can be proud. It is a day when all Americans should be proud. Debbie Almontaser turned to the federal government for redress and it did what it could to make her whole.

This is a day when Muslim-haters like Norman Podhoretz and his friends I mentioned above should hide their heads in shame (though they will shake their fists in defiance instead). Their bullying has been shown for what it is: un-American, unfair, unjust. We are better than the haters in Stop the Madrasa. The democratic system worked.

My chief regret is that the political leadership of New York and the Jewish communal leadership were cowards and turned tail at the first sign of trouble. Instead of standing up to the ranters, Bloomberg folded at the earliest opportunity. The New York Jewish federation, after allowing Rabbi Michael Paley to represent it in the fight on behalf of the Academy, forced him to shut up. I was never able to determine who specifically made this decision–whether it was an executive decision by CEO Jon Ruskay or a lay decision influenced by a wealthy neocon board member like James Tisch. Whoever made the decision betrayed the courage necessary for true leadership. Instead of speaking out and doing the right thing, they let Daniel Pipes present the Jewish community’s position by default.

The EEOC called on New York City to do the right thing:

The commission asked the Department of Education to reach a “just resolution” with Ms. Almontaser and to consider her demands, which include reinstatement to her old job, back pay, damages of $300,000 and legal fees. Should the two sides fail to reach an agreement, the dispute will end up in court, her lawyer said.

Instead of hearing the message, the City’s attorney said his client would fight Ms. Almontaser every step of the way. They still haven’t gotten the message. I only hope that cooler heads will prevail. The former principal was wronged and deserves her job back and the chance to lead this school. That’s what’s fair. That’s what’s American.

I do take issue with one statement in this report:

Despite Ms. Almontaser’s longstanding reputation as a moderate Muslim, her critics succeeded in recasting her as a “9/11 denier” and a “jihadist.”

This is very sloppy writing and editing. Her critics did NOT succeed in recasting her as any of those things. But the mud flung by the Islamophobes resonated in certain quarters (like the pages of the Post) and her employer hung her out to dry. There was never ANY truth to any of the claims against Almontaser. They were all lies. So in that sense her critics could not have succeeded in any objective sense in labeling her. But they waged a vitriolic racist campaign which the DOE and city refused to counteract. Rather than fight, they folded.

In its criticism of the City’s actions, the Commission found that Almontaser had said nor done anything related to the T-shirt incident that warranted her removal:

It was The Post’s article, the commission wrote in its letter this week, that prompted the Department of Education to force Ms. Almontaser to resign. (City officials have said that she resigned voluntarily.)

“Significantly, it was not her actual remarks, but their elaboration by the reporter —creating waves of explicit anti-Muslim bias from several extremist sources — that caused D.O.E. to act,” the commission’s letter said.

I’m delighted that the EEOC pointedly noted the nasty role playing by Pipes and STM and labelled them “extremist.”

 

D.O.E. Discriminated, Rules Federal Commission

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 13, 2010 by loonwatch
Debbie Almontaser was discriminated against for her religion.Debbie Almontaser

The New York Times reports:

Federal Panel Finds Bias in Ouster of Principal
By Andrea Elliot
Published: March 12, 2010

A federal commission has determined that New York City’s Department of Education discriminated against the founding principal of an Arabic-language public school by forcing her to resign in 2007 following a storm of controversy driven by opponents of the school.

Acting on a complaint filed last year by the principal, Debbie Almontaser, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that the department “succumbed to the very bias that creation of the school was intended to dispel and a small segment of the public succeeded in imposing its prejudices on D.O.E. as an employer,” according to a letter issued by the commission on Tuesday.

The commission said that the department had discriminated against Ms. Almontaser, a Muslim of Yemeni descent, “on account of her race, religion and national origin.”

The findings, which are nonbinding, could mark a turning point in Ms. Almontaser’s battle to reclaim her job as principal of the school, the Khalil Gibran International Academy in Brooklyn.

The commission asked the Department of Education to reach a “just resolution” with Ms. Almontaser and to consider her demands, which include reinstatement to her old job, back pay, damages of $300,000 and legal fees. Should the two sides fail to reach an agreement, the dispute will end up in court, her lawyer said.

Commission officials declined to answer questions about the case, citing federal confidentiality law, but Ms. Almontaser’s lawyer provided a copy of the letter to The New York Times.

“There is no question that this is an important step in the road to her ultimate vindication,” said Alan Levine, Ms. Almontaser’s lawyer. “Up until now, the D.O.E. has really had its way and hasn’t had to answer for its actions.”

In a statement, a lawyer for the city disputed the commission’s findings.

The Department of Education “in no way discriminated against Ms. Almontaser and she will not be reinstated,” said Paul Marks, the city’s deputy chief of labor and employment law in the Law Department. “If she continues to pursue litigation, we will vigorously defend against her groundless allegations.”

The controversy surrounding the dual-language school began in early 2007, shortly after the city announced that Ms. Almontaser, a longtime teacher, would lead it. A group of opponents, including conservative commentators and a City University trustee, mounted a campaign against the school and Ms. Almontaser, claiming that she carried a militant Islamic agenda.

Despite Ms. Almontaser’s longstanding reputation as a moderate Muslim, her critics succeeded in recasting her as a “9/11 denier” and a “jihadist.”

The conflict came to a head that August, when Ms. Almontaser’s opponents, who had formed the Stop the Madrassa Coalition, asserted that she was connected to T-shirts bearing the words “Intifada NYC.” While Ms. Almontaser was on the board of an organization that rented space to the group that distributed the shirts, she was unaware of them, she said. (The commission determined that she had no connection to the T-shirts.)

Nonetheless, in response to mounting inquiries about the shirts, the Department of Education pressured her to give an interview to The New York Post, she said. In that interview, with a department employee listening in, she explained that the root of the word intifada meant “shaking off,” but that it had acquired other connotations because of the Israeli-Palestinian struggle.

The next day, The Post published the article under the headline “City Principal Is ‘Revolting’ — Tied to ‘Intifada NYC’ Tee Shirts,” stating that Ms. Almontaser had “downplayed the significance” of the T-shirts. (Federal judges later issued a ruling — related to a lawsuit brought by Ms. Almontaser — stating that The Post had reported her words “incorrectly and misleadingly.”)

It was The Post’s article, the commission wrote in its letter this week, that prompted the Department of Education to force Ms. Almontaser to resign. (City officials have said that she resigned voluntarily.)

“Significantly, it was not her actual remarks, but their elaboration by the reporter — creating waves of explicit anti-Muslim bias from several extremist sources — that caused D.O.E. to act,” the commission’s letter said.

Pressure soon mounted for Ms. Almontaser to step down. Randi Weingarten, the head of the teacher’s union, published a letter in The Post that was sharply critical of Ms. Almontaser. She finally resigned on Aug. 10, under pressure from the mayor’s office, she said. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced the resignation on his radio show, saying, “she’s certainly not a terrorist,” while adding that she was “not all that media savvy, maybe.”

Ms. Almontaser continued working with the department in an administrative job, at her principal’s salary of about $120,000, but that job was eliminated and she was demoted.

The lawsuit that she filed against the city, claiming that her First Amendment rights had been violated because she was forced to resign after saying something controversial, was dismissed. She is appealing that decision.

A lawyer for the Stop the Madrassa Coalition said he found the commission’s determination predictable. “I think the E.E.O.C. is constitutionally constructed to find discrimination in a high-profile case,” said the lawyer, David Yerushalmi.

But the development struck other lawyers as surprising. Bill Lann Lee, a labor-law expert in San Francisco, said the commission rarely issued such rulings, and so its decision might help Ms. Almontaser if she pursued a discrimination lawsuit.

“The courts tend to consider what the E.E.O.C. finds,” he said, adding that “the courts know generally that these findings are very rare, so if there is such a finding, there’s a general belief among lawyers and judges that there may be something there.”

Jenny Anderson and Jennifer Medina contributed reporting.

Big ups to the E.E.O.C.  Way to be on the ball on this one.

 

One Story You Won’t see on JihadWatch: Muslim Samaritan Mohammad Asadujjaman

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 13, 2010 by loonwatch
Mohammad AsadujjamanMohammad Asadujjaman

Do you think this story is one that Robert Spencer would mention on his site? This seems to be the Greater Jihad, fighting the temptations of the self to do something right.

By VIRGINIA BYRNE,Associated Press Writer – Wednesday, January 13

NEW YORK – A New York City cabbie said he returned a lost purse containing more than $21,000 in cash and expensive jewelry because his mother always advised him to be honest.

“I’m broke, but I’m honest,” 28-year-old Mohammad “Mukal” Asadujjaman said Tuesday.

Felicia Lettieri, of Pompeii, Italy, and six relatives had taken two cabs from midtown Manhattan to Penn Station on Christmas Eve. The 72-year-old Lettieri left her purse behind, with more than $21,000 of the group’s traveling money, jewelry worth thousands more, and some of their passports.

Police advised the tourists they had little chance of recovering the lost goods.

Felicia Lettieri returned to Pompeii and could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday. Her sister, Francesca Lettieri, 79, of Patchogue, told Newsday the honest cabbie had saved her family’s vacation, and said “We really love what he did.”

The cabbie, a native of Bangladesh, saw the rolls of euros when he opened the bag to look for an address, but didn’t even count the money. “My mother is my inspiration,” the soft-spoken cabbie said. “She always said to be honest and work hard.”

The cabbie called a friend with a car and drove some 50 miles to a Patchogue address in the purse. No one was home, so Asadujjaman left his cell phone number and a note. His phone rang a short time later and he drove back to return the bag.

“They were so, so, so happy,” Asadujjaman beamed.

The immigrant is a full-time student at a city college near his apartment in Jamaica, Queens. He began driving a cab a few days a week about three months ago, after his hours were cut back at a former factory job.

Asked if he was tempted to keep the cash, Asadujjaman acknowledged the money would have allowed him more time to study, “but my heart said this is not good.” He also turned down a reward, saying he could not accept it as an observant Muslim.

“I’m needy, but I’m not greedy,” said Asadujjaman. “It’s better to be honest.”