Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Editorial Note: The
following news reports are summaries from original sources. They may
also include corrections of Arabic names and political terminology.
Comments are in parentheses.
American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections: Vision,
Mission, & 2010 Election Plan
AMT, June 28, 2010
AMT defines objectives, issues, strategies; sets forth
a bottom-up, community- based decision-making process
The American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT), an
umbrella organization representing American Muslim Alliance (AMA),
American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), Council on American-Islamic
Relations (CAIR), Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Muslim
Alliance of North America (MANA), Muslim American Society - Freedom
(MAS-F), Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA), Muslim Ummah of North
America (MUNA), Muslim Student Association - National (MSA-N), North
American Imams Federation (NAIF), and United Muslims of America (UMA),
operates as much as a movement as it does as a coalition.
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere".
Mission and Objectives
Our four main objectives are to: 1) become
full partners in the defense, development and prosperity of our
homeland, the United States, 2) defend civil and human rights of all, 3)
mainstream the American Muslim community, and 4) develop alliances with
like-minded fellow Americans on a wide variety of social, political,
economic and moral issues.
Election efforts will focus on
a "Civil Rights Plus" agenda. By this we mean that 'the civil rights for
all' is the main issue but not the only issue. We remain equally
committed to education, homelessness, economic recovery, environmental
and ecological safety, electoral reform, crime, and global peace and
justice. Our 'civil rights plus agenda' is broadly organized under three
categories: a) civil and human rights, b) domestic issues of public good
and general welfare, c) global peace with justice, prevention of war,
and US relations with the Muslim world.
strategy is premised on the belief that "Our vote is the best guarantee
of our civil rights and the best expression of our citizenship". The AMT
will organize strategic mobilization of the American Muslim voters at
local, state and federal levels, with primary focus on key states and
key races. Voter Registration and Voter Education Viewing elections as
an opportunity for both self-empowerment and direct participation in
discussions about all issues including America's sense of direction and
destiny, the AMT shall expend its maximum energy in educating,
organizing and mobilizing the American Muslim voters.
Genuinely Grassroots Movement: The Proof is in the Process
grassroots movement, AMT conducts Town Hall meetings throughout the two
and four-year election cycles. Most recently, AMT has held three town
hall meetings (May29 and May 30 @ the ICNA Convention n Connecticut) and
on June 13 in Falls Church, Virginia. The June 13 town hall meeting is
AMT Town Hall Meeting
By Mariam Abu-Ali
Muslim Link Contributing Writer
leaders are working to educate their members on civic engagement,
encouraging Muslims to be active and to unite as a community in order to
increase their chances of being heard and making a difference. The
American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections, a nonpartisan
umbrella organization headed by Muhammad Salim Akhtar, scheduled a town
hall meeting on Sunday June 13. A panel comprised of well-known Muslim
leaders addressed the Political Landscape and Role of Muslim Community
in the Elections of 2010. Held at the Dar Al Hijrah Islamic
Center, it provided the community with the opportunity to discuss
important political matters such as civil liberties and American foreign
policy. Muslim leaders are also working to rally the community for
heavy involvement in the coming midterm election, in which the entire
House of Representatives as well as one third of the senate will be up
Dr. Esam Omeish, who ran for the 35th District of
Virginia House of Delegates in 2009, stressed the importance of civic
engagement. Dr. Omeish made it clear that the 2010 elections are
critical, especially in light of the historic election of president
Obama. "His presidency represents a shift in a lot of the policies and
there had been unprecedented challenges. When this midterm election
comes in, an election which is generally against the party that is in
power, people who are disenfranchised will vote against the current
party. If the president doesn't have the backing of congress, we will
find ourselves in a very difficult place." He recognized that there will
always be frustrations, and that we may not see the tail end of good
policies and their effectiveness, but he predicted positive outcomes.
"[Obama] inherited an economic meltdown, but we are on the path of
recovery. The unemployment will hopefully come down...inshallah our
future and our children's future is being addressed." He also noted the
fact that Obama addressed healthcare "no one has a perfect solution to
the problem, but we have to put this in context, the healthcare reform
says something about our leadership. Significant foundational issues
have been addressed. We had vision and leadership that drove this."
Irrespective of party, he urged the community to look at the future of
America and the type of policies we want America espousing. "The vote
that you cast gives you the right to decide what you want for America."
Corey Saylor, legislative director for the Council on
American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), highlighted the tone change in the
president's speeches and his attitude towards Muslims from that of his
predecessor. President Obama appointed several Muslims including Dalia
Mogahed as an advisor on the White House Office of Faith-Based and
Neighborhood Partnerships and Rashad Hussain as the special envoy to the
Organization of the Islamic Conference. When they were attacked by those
opposed to their appointments, the White House stood behind them.
Despite the positive rhetoric, he recognized that "changing words
does not change the reality on the ground. The extremists use legitimate
concerns in the Muslim world, particularly the Palestinian issue, to
pull people to their side. If the government starts addressing these
issues we will take away that excuse from the extremists. We don't think
the government has taken strong steps to do that." Saylor acknowledged
that the Israeli raid on the Flotilla headed towards Gaza required a
stronger response from the Obama administration.
As for our civil
rights and liberties, "the initial hope is now being replaced by
questioning: When is the White House going to deliver on those
promises?" said Saylor. Attorney General Eric Holder suggested creating
an exception to Miranda rights for terror suspects. Saylor expressed
concern over talk about targeting American citizens for extra-judicial
assassination. "When civil liberties are abused we tend to be the
victims," he said.
Nihad Awad, the Executive Director of CAIR,
expressed his discontent with the current political reality.
"Although we are hearing a different and positive tone, and hopefully
this will translate into less interference and less death, we still see
more death, more escalation in fighting, particularly in Afghanistan.
That is not the change I was looking for." While on the domestic level,
there has been an effort to engage the Muslim community, for Awad "this
is not enough. People must speak up their minds; they must not settle
and accept the status quo."
All the panelists addressed the
continued diatribe against Islam and Muslims, urging the community to
combat it and take charge of our image. Imam Shaker Elsayed said that
Islamophobia "is a result of people hearing messages louder than ours,
not because the Americans are inherently hateful or racist." Awad urged
members to become "public Muslims, visible Muslims, proud of who we are,
and not compromising on our rights." Ibrahim Ramey, Civil and Human
Rights Director of MAS Freedom Foundation, cautioned that if "we don't
exercise our political power things will be much worse for us in 2012."
Speakers used other minority communities as examples we can learn
from. Saylor and Awad used other minority communities as examples we can
learn from. Awad used the example of the Jewish American community.
"Fifty years ago they were not where they are today. They recognized
that they have a small number of people and made sure that every single
member realized the weight of their participation. The Muslim community
was initially busy building mosques and schools. Now we must focus on
political empowerment. It is going to take time."
A common theme
was identifying political candidates and leaders who support the Muslim
community. Dr. Imad ad-dean Ahmad, an American Muslim scholar and the
president of the Minaret of Freedom Institute told the community that
"no candidate is perfect. The nature of politics is compromise...It is
necessary" but asked us not to sell out on the core issues. These issues
according to Dr. Ahmad are ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and
the siege against Gaza, preventing the impending war against Iran, and
fighting to preserve the civil liberties of not only Muslims but
Hispanics as well.
Panelists urged the masajid to hold regular
sessions to educate the community on candidates, where they stand on
issues of immediate concern to the Muslim community, and to urge civic
engagement. With no more than 20 attendees, however, Imam Shaker Elsayed
associated low attendance with poor advertising, but said that there is
a degree of apathy in our community.
Ibrahim Ramey reminded us
that "Allah has made us as khalifs- viceroys- on this earth. It is not
only a political responsibility but our spiritual responsibility to be
engaged, to organize, mobilize, and register to vote."
***The American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections
is an umbrella organization representing American Muslim Alliance (AMA),
American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), Council on American Islamic
Relations (ICNA), Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA), Muslim
American Society-Freedom (MAS Freedom), Muslim Student
Association-National (MSA-N), Muslim Ummah of North America (MUNA), and
United Muslims of America (UMA). American Muslims for Civic Engagement
(AMCE), Islamic Educational Center of Orange County (IEC), Islamic
Society of North America (ISNA), and Muslim Public Affairs Council
(MPAC) are affiliated with AMT as observers.
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