Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
News & Views, July 2009
Muslim American News Briefs, July 18, 2009
Obama & Muslims After ‘The War on Terror’
CAIR-IL: Panel Dropped after Invitation of Islam Critic (Wash Times)
FL Imam Faces Deportation for Not Becoming Informant (Miami Herald)
VERSE OF THE DAY: ABRAHAM, JESUS AND MUHAMMAD - TOP
"Behold, We have inspired thee (O Prophet Muhammad) just as We inspired Noah and all the prophets after him - as We inspired Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and their descendants, including Jesus and Job, and Jonah, and Aaron, and Solomon; and as We vouchsafed unto David a book of divine wisdom. . .(We sent all these) apostles as heralds of glad tidings and as warners, so that men might have no excuse before God. . ."
The Holy Quran, 163-165
CAIR: INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR INTER-RELIGIOUS DIALOGUE AGREED AT VIENNA CONFERENCE - TOP World religious leaders follow up on interfaith initiative sponsored by Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 7/14/2009) - Representatives of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today joined other world religious leaders at a conference in Vienna, Austria, in agreeing to establish an International Center for Inter-Religious Dialogue to help promote world peace and reconciliation.
The two-day conference, a follow-up meeting to an initiative launched last year by Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, included representatives of Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, and other world faiths and philosophies.
Conference delegates agreed to set up a working group and steering committee to offer concrete proposals for the establishment of the dialogue center.
“We look forward to the establishment of the International Center for Inter-Religious Dialogue and to the positive results that it, God willing, will offer to the world community,” said CAIR Board Chairman State Senator Larry Shaw (NC), who took part in the Vienna conference.
Other CAIR participants included National Executive Director Nihad Awad and National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper.
“This is a major step in carrying out King Abdullah's ground-breaking interfaith initiative,” said Awad.
CAIR, America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding. - END - CONTACT: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787, 202-744-7726, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, 202-341-4171, E-Mail: email@example.com
Iraqi Americans Wasan Alqaisi and Sumer Majid made a Fourth of July family picnic of kebab -- served on hamburger buns with slices of American cheese.
Celebrating Independence Day in the U.S. capital, the two Muslim women were doing what generations of Americans have done before them: blending their faith and lifestyle with a U.S. national identity.
Eight years after Middle East militants carried out the September 11 attacks, Muslim Americans are raising their profile, encouraged by the election of Barack Obama, a U.S. president proud of his Kenyan father's Muslim heritage.
The president, who is a Christian, used his middle name, Hussein, at his inauguration. He called for new dialogue with Islamic nations and named a special envoy for the Middle East on his second full day in office.
"We are more optimistic about the future for us here," said Alqaisi, an accountant. "They changed the way they communicate with the Muslim countries. We feel like we have more value here now. We hope that will continue in the future."
Like other immigrant groups in a country of immigrants, Muslims were drawn to the United States seeking opportunity and relief from poverty in their home countries. Arabs went to industrial centers, south Asian Muslims to the West Coast. Some arrived to study in universities; some arrived as slaves.
A 2007 Pew Research Center study says 21 percent of Muslim Americans arrived from abroad during the 1990s.
The September 11 attacks put a magnifying glass on what until then had been a largely invisible Muslim American community, prompting many to organize. The Patriot Act limited civil liberties. Many felt they were being profiled. The Council of American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil liberties and advocacy group, said more than 60,000 people were subject to new government actions such as interrogations, detentions, raids and the closure of charities.
CAIR reported a 64 percent increase in the number of civil rights complaints in the year after September 11, 2001. (More)
“What if they gave a war and no one came?” read a bumper sticker popular during the Vietnam War. Today’s version might ask, What if they gave a war on terror and no one came?
President George W. Bush first used the fateful phrase “war on terror” in an address to Congress on September 20, 2001, identifying what he later called “the defining struggle of our time.” And though initially the 9/11 attacks united the West while embarrassing and dividing the Muslim world, in time the rhetoric of a “war on terror” reversed those terms. With just three words, the president managed to transform Osama bin Laden from a criminal fugitive into a historic military commander, the head of a new, potentially world-changing army of fanatics. The subsequent invasion of Iraq, centerpiece of the Bush war on terror, only confirmed bin Laden in many Muslim eyes as a Saladin rather than a mass murderer.
Against this background, the disappearance of “war on terror” from the diplomatic lexicon of Barack Obama’s administration—neither the president nor Secretary of State Hillary Clinton nor Defense Secretary Robert Gates has used the phrase even once—is significant. In just a few months’ time, the administration has replaced a grandiose, counterproductive fantasy with realistic attention to a set of grievous but real problems. There is a new awareness in American diplomacy that international relations are now complicated by intercultural relations, including strange new culture-to-religion-to-government hybrids; and that the U.S. government ignores these realities at its own peril.
This awareness was catalyzed by the 9/11 attacks themselves, whose agents invoked Islam (however illegitimately) and operated on behalf of no government. The unprecedented lack of a national sponsor vastly complicated the American reaction. To respond with a religion-to-religion counterattack—a neo-crusade—was out of the question. But to define this new kind of enemy as “terror” seemed patently disingenuous to Muslims-since no non-Muslim terrorists were the object of any comparably intense American attention. Given the history of Arab-Christian warfare over the centuries, it was perhaps inevitable that Muslims would view the war on terror as actually a war against Islam. A more astute response to Al Qaeda’s invocation of Islam was clearly called for, one that would separate the attackers from the body of the world’s Muslims and would diminish, rather than inflate, their claims.
Helping the United States rise to this challenge, however belatedly, has been Obama’s most important move to date. When his candidacy was first announced, Obama’s personal history, with its links to Muslim Indonesia and religiously mixed Kenya, struck many as rich with new possibilities. In an August 2007 speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., the candidate laid out his view of “the world’s trouble spots,” describing them as “disaffected communities” full of “desperate faces...where extremists thrive.” If people in these communities see America as “just an occupying army in Muslim lands, the shadow of a shrouded figure standing on a box at Abu Ghraib, [or] the power behind the throne of a repressive leader,” Obama predicted, then the hatemongering extremists would prevail. But he pledged a better outcome:
As president, I will make it a focus of my foreign policy to roll back the tide of hopelessness that gives rise to hate.... We will open “America Houses” in cities across the Islamic world, with Internet, libraries, English lessons, stories of America’s Muslims and the strength they add to our country, and vocational programs. Through a new “America’s Voice Corps” we will recruit, train, and send out into the field talented young Americans who can speak with-and listen to-the people who today hear about us only from our enemies. (More)
The American Library Association has canceled a panel discussion on Islam planned for its annual conference over the weekend, after three speakers withdrew in protest at the inclusion of the fourth, a controversial critic of the Muslim religion.
The critic, Robert Spencer, who runs the blog site JihadWatch.org, told The Washington Times that he learned of the decision to cancel Sunday's panel - "Perspectives on Islam: Beyond the Stereotyping" - in an e-mail message Saturday morning from Myra Appel, the event organizer…
"Would (the ALA) invite an anti-Semite to be on a panel aiming to dispel stereotypes against Jews?" asked CAIR Chicago chapter Executive Director Ahmed Rehab in an interview with The Times.
"I believe in his freedom to speak," he added of Mr. Spencer, saying the author regularly gives talks all over the country and CAIR does not try to stop him. "But why should a respectable organization, with connections to academic institutions ... invite an Islamaphobe who promotes stereotypes of Islam to a discussion aimed at dispelling [such] stereotypes?" (More)
A controversy erupted last week in Chicago after it was publicly revealed that a noted anti-Islam blogger, Robert Spencer, had been invited to an American Library Association panel advertised as "dispelling stereotypes about Islam."
Ultimately, the panel was canceled after all the other panelists withdrew. I'll get into that in a minute, but first, who is Robert Spencer?
In his own words:
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch, a program of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, and the author of eight books on Islam and jihad.
Spencer is a weekly columnist for Human Events and FrontPage Magazine.
Spencer has also written eleven monographs and well over three hundred articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism. Along with the bestsellers The Truth About Muhammad, Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion (Regnery) and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) (Regnery), he is the author of Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World's Fastest Growing Faith (Encounter); Onward Muslim Soldiers: How Jihad Still Threatens America and the West (Regnery); and Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn't (Regnery), a refutation of moral equivalence and call for all the beneficiaries and heirs of Judeo-Christian Western civilization, whatever their own religious or philosophical perspective may be, to defend it from the global jihad.
More recently he has also written monographs for the David Horowitz Freedom Center: What Americans Need to Know About Jihad; The Violent Oppression of Women In Islam (with Phyllis Chesler); Islamic Leaders' Plan for Genocide; and Muslim Persecution of Christians.
In case his one-sided tone and unabashed slant has left you a little queasy, Spencer is sure to add:
"Spencer has been studying Islamic theology, law, and history in depth since 1980."
Longevity equals credibility, eh? (Or put another way, it's been ample time for him to perfect his bias.)
Spencer postures himself as an "Islamic Scholar." But unlike most people we tend to call "scholars," Spencer did not burden himself with the traditional scholarly route that puts an emphasis on objectivity and academic rigor.
There is a good reason for this: his "scholarly" methodologies would not jive in any of our nation's accredited PhD programs let alone a path for tenure where he would have to get his papers peer-reviewed and have his methodology checked by notable scholars for objectivity and a lack of bias (unless, of course, David Horowitz decides to build the David Horowitz Freedom University).
Spencer dismisses such criticism as follows: he is right, and all of the tenured professors of Islamic studies, with their inconvenient knack for unbiased scholarship, are wrong. After all, universities are the establishment of the left-wing liberal conspiracy.
Besides who needs peer-reviewed papers, Spencer seems content to receive rave reviews from Weasel Zippers, Nice Doggie, Atlas Shrugs, Muslims are Terrorists, and of course, frontpagemag.com, that other gem of a creation, and bastion of objectivity, by the guy who cuts his checks.
Now, I will be the first to admit that there are plenty of problems in the Muslim world. I welcome an honest and responsible critique any day. But honest and responsible Spencer's agenda-driven hatemongering is not. I am not not the only one to take issue with Spencer's technique. Most objective scholars and professors of Islamic studies dismiss the guy as laughably fraudulent and amateur.
The independent national media watch group, FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting), identifies Spencer as one of the "Dirty Dozen: America's leading Islamophobes" who systematically "spread fear, bigotry, and misinformation." The special report, entitled "Smearcasters" provides examples of Spencer's sensational views.
So let us take a quick look at the crux of Spencer's methodology which is as disingenuous as his conclusions are sensational. In fact, it can be analogized to the three acts of a magic trick as described in the movie The Prestige. (More)
CAIR-SAN DIEGO REP SPEAKS ON ISLAMOPHOBIA AT PUBLIC LIBRARY - TOP
(SAN DIEGO, CA, 7/14/09) - On Saturday July 11, a representative from the San Diego office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-San Diego) spoke about Islamophobia at the City of San Diego Public Library. The talk, titled “Islamophobia: It’s Components, Root Causes, and Remedies,” was sponsored by the City of San Diego Public Library as part of its free summer lecture series offered to the public.
"Islamophobia is a result of centuries of misperceptions and misunderstanding in the West with regards to Islam and Muslims," said CAIR San Diego Public Relations Director Edgar Hopida, who spoke at this event. “In light of several recent bias-motivated incidents against Muslims, this topic remains relevant in the public discourse as the root causes of such hateful acts.”
CAIR, America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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CONTACT: CAIR-San Diego Public Relations Director Edgar Hopida, 619-913-0719, 858-278-4547, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Since President Obama's inauguration speech, and especially after his Cairo address to the Muslim world, Muslims around the world have been waiting for concrete steps to improve U.S.-Muslim relations. A group of scholars, diplomats and American-Muslim leaders are recommending practical steps to achieve that goal.
Since the September 11th attacks, U.S. relations with the Muslim world have been tense, with a rise in anti-American sentiment on one side and rhetoric linking Islam with terrorism on the other.
President Obama's speech to the Muslim world called for a new beginning based on mutual respect and mutual interest…
Nihad Awad is executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. He says President Obama should speak out against anti-Muslim rhetoric and discrimination against Muslims.
"We should have [a] clear stance by the U.S. government and intellectual leaders to fight against Islamophobia and anti-Muslim discrimination that has been rampant after 9/11."
Muslim activists, like pop star Youssef Islam, once known as Cat Stevens, have been barred from the United States, although recently Islam was admitted.
Awad says U.S. visa policies should be changed to allow Muslim intellectuals and business leaders to travel to America without fear of harassment at points of entry.
Awad notes that President Obama cannot act alone and Congress must help to fix the damage done to U.S.-Muslim relations over the past several years. (More)
As the political crisis in Iran turns toward a slow boil, a North Miami Beach imam is closely watching events unfold there. U.S. authorities could deport him at any moment to the Islamic republic, a country he has never visited.
Foad Farahi, 34, a doctoral student at Florida International University, will be part of a delegation meeting with staff members of Miami Democrat Kendrick Meek on Tuesday to discuss the conditions in detention centers maintained by the Department of Homeland Security. He will bring up his case, and is hoping to garner the congressman's support.
''All I am asking right now is a right to a hearing,'' Farahi said.
Farahi was born in Kuwait to an Iranian father and a Syrian mother and moved to Miami 16 years ago on a student visa.
Since Kuwait only grants citizenship to children who have a Kuwaiti father, Farahi is considered an Iranian national, despite the fact that he has never been to Iran and doesn't speak Farsi.
His problems with immigration authorities in the United States began in 2001, when he learned that he would not be able to reinstate his student visa because he had not taken enough credits in his final semester as an undergraduate. Faced with deportation to Iran, he applied for political asylum.
Farahi claims that at his asylum hearing in November of 2007, he was blindsided when a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement prosecutor offered him a deal to leave the country within 30 days, or face arrest for ''support of terrorist groups.'' Fahari said he was intimidated into withdrawing his asylum petition, and that he may have been targeted because he had refused to serve as an informant for the FBI. ICE officials have denied his accusations. (More)
CAIR-MN: STUDENTS PROTEST PROPOSAL TO ELIMINATE CITY CIVIL RIGHTS UNIT - TOP The proposal is to eliminate the Minneapolis Civil Rights Complaints Investigation unit due to budget cuts. Briana Bierschbach, Minnesota Daily, 07/14/2009
University of Minnesota undergraduate Lolla Mohammed Nur, along with about 12 other students, sat silently with posters at a city meeting last week, protesting a proposal to eliminate the Minneapolis Civil Rights Complaint Investigation Unit.
Now the political science and journalism junior, along with a coalition of University students and student groups, are garnering petition signatures against the proposal that they say could leave leagues of civil rights violations unchecked…
Student groups that either cosponsored or were involved with the silent rally include La Raza Student Cultural Center, Black Student Union, Al-Madinah Cultural Center and the national Council on American Islamic Relations. (More)
From a young age Sohaib Sultan has always fostered a deep passion for serving the Muslim community.
Now at 28, he is the first full-time Muslim life coordinator and chaplain serving at Princeton University.
The past academic year was Mr. Sultan’s first as a full-time chaplain. Two years ago, the university launched a pilot program to evaluate the Muslim community’s response to having a Muslim chaplain on campus. It was a part-time position for one year filled by Khalid Latif, the Muslim chaplain at New York University.
“I think that university Muslim chaplains are critical to the development of vibrant, ethical and intellectual Muslims and non-Muslims in this country,” said Mr. Sultan. “Muslim chaplains play a very critical role in shaping Islam in America.”
Mr. Sultan did not always know that he would become a chaplain. Born in North Carolina, he went to Indiana University where he majored in political science and journalism. While working as a journalist he received a contract to write “The Koran for Dummies,” published in 2004. It was then that he discovered his passion for Islamic studies.
“I found myself in the position of being a resource for young Muslims and I really enjoyed it,” said Mr. Sultan. “I decided that I wanted to work with the youth to fulfill a need in the community.” (More)
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