Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Muslim American News Briefs, March 8, 2009
Hadith: Courtesy and Cordiality
(Houston Chronicle) CAIR-MN: Lawmaker Backs Off Bid to Ban Hijabs on Photos
(Detroit News) VA: Federal Judge Says Sami Al-Arian Plea Deal Does Matter
(SP Times) MI: CIA Meets with Arab-American Leaders
(Detroit Free Press) NJ: Travel Agency to Reimburse Customers for Failed Mecca Trip
Amnesty: Gaza Homes Destruction 'Wanton' (BBC)
Israelis Vandalized Gaza Homes with Urine, Feces (Haaretz)
HADITH OF THE DAY: COURTESY AND CORDIALITY - TOP
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "...you should show courtesy and be cordial with each other, so that nobody should consider himself superior to another, nor do him harm."
Riyadh-us-Salaheen, Hadith 602
. . .Sheikh Zoubir Bouchikhi, a native of Algeria, was arrested at his home shortly after leading morning prayers at the Abu Bakr Siddqui mosque Dec. 17 and has been held without bond at a detention center in north Houston ever since.
The popular imam’s detention has angered Houston-area Muslims, who are rallying to support Bouchikhi with letter-writing campaigns, petitions and Web sites. . .
Bouchikhi has lived in the U.S. for 11 years and has three American-born children. He first came to this country in January 1998 on a student visa to study at the School of Islamic and Social Sciences in Leesburg, Va., where he earned a master’s degree. In 1999, Bouchikhi moved to Houston. He applied for a religious worker visa, and was hired by the Islamic Society of Greater Houston in 2001. ISGH is a coalition of mosques and schools that includes Abu Bakr Siddqui.
In June 2003, ISGH filed a petition on Bouchikhi’s behalf for permanent residency status as a religious minister, said Candace Cowan, an attorney for ISGH.
The petition was accepted, and Bouchikhi applied for permanent residency for himself, his wife and the couple’s oldest child, a boy who had moved to America as a baby. “We were waiting every day, looking for the Green Card in the mailbox,” said Bouchikhi’s wife, Mounira Belhacel.
In 2007, the family received a notice that USCIS revoked ISGH’s petition and denied Bouchikhi’s request for permanent residency.
According to Cowan, the government said ISGH had failed to prove Bouchikhi had been continuously employed for the two years prior to filing of its petition and had not demonstrated its ability to pay Bouchikhi’s salary.
The government also questioned why ISGH had not proved Bouchikhi was an imam by submitting a formal certificate of ordination. Such a document does not exist in the Muslim faith, which awards positions to clergy by education, experience and community consensus. ISGH and Bouchikhi appealed, but the appeal was rejected in November 2008. The imam was arrested a month later.
Belhacel, who’s Algerian, said her husband was led away in handcuffs as his children wept and screamed. . .
Bouchikhi’s detention plays on the fears of some Muslim-Americans that the U.S. government is anti-Muslim, said Ali Khalili, a founding member of the Coalition to Free Imam Bouchikhi. The situation seems even more inexplicable because the imam has a reputation as a strong voice of moderation, Khalili said. . .
Mohamed Kandil, a 25-year-old engineer from League City, said Bouchikhi encouraged Muslim youth to take an active role in society, whether that meant volunteering in homeless shelters or traveling to Galveston to help clean up after Hurricane Ike. (MORE)
A showdown between Minnesota Muslims and a state legislator over driver's license photos may have been averted. Or maybe not.
Rep. Steve Gottwalt, R-St. Cloud, announced Thursday he will tweak a bill that would have banned from the photos all head scarves that many Muslim women say they are required to wear at all times.
Instead, he will amend the bill so that head coverings, called hijabs, can be "worn for religious or cultural purposes." . . .
Local Muslims aren't yet sure if the amendment satisfies their objections, said Jessica Zikri, a spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
"It's still unclear what the actual amendment will say," she said, calling Gottwalt's proposed language "overly vague and broad. It needs to be more precise."
The council's national organization asked Attorney General Eric Holder to determine whether the bill and a similar measure being considered in Oklahoma, amount to violation of the U.S. Constitution.
The council said the bills would infringe on First Amendment rights of Muslims, Jews, Sikhs and members of other faiths who wear head coverings for religious reasons.
Zikri said her organization has been contacted by local Jews and Amish who are worried the bill would adversely affect them. (MORE)
ST. PAUL — Rep. Steve Gottwalt said Thursday he has changed a bill that would have barred all headwear in driver’s license photos to allow for headwear mandated by some religions.
The St. Cloud Republican said his new bill is a compromise between public safety and cultural respect.
Gottwalt introduced a bill in 2007 and again this year that would have banned headwear in driver’s license photos. The bill created an uproar among Muslims who said the restrictions would discriminate against people whose religion requires covering their head.
“As we explored a middle ground, we landed on U.S. passport requirements. They are well understood and they have been accepted,” Gottwalt said.
The new language would require driver’s license photos to present an image of the full head from top of hair to shoulders, among other requirements.
The State Department allows religious headwear in passport photos provided a signed statement is submitted to the government verifying the item is worn daily for religious reasons.
“In all cases, no item or attire should cover or otherwise obscure any part of the face,” the State Department rules say.
It’s unclear whether the revised state bill would require such signed statements.
Gottwalt said he amended his bill after meeting with the state chiefs of police association and Muslim groups in Minneapolis. Police officers have been concerned that some photo IDs have been making it difficult to quickly identify people. Gottwalt believes the revision strikes a compromise between ease of identification for law enforcement while still allowing religious headwear such as the hijab worn by many Muslim women.
The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations is waiting to see the revised language in Gottwalt’s bill, said Jessica Zikri, communications director.
She said the group wants specific exceptions for religious and medical reasons. (MORE)
A national organization is asking the state Senate to defeat a bill that would prohibit Oklahomans from wearing head scarves and head garments in driver’s license photographs. Another group says it will challenge the bill’s constitutionality.
"It is a matter of grave concern not only to the Sikh-American community, but also for members of other faiths who are required by their respective religions to wear religious head coverings,” said Rajdeep Singh Jolly, legal director for the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund based in Washington.
"The motives behind this legislation appear to be suspect.”
Rep. Rex Duncan said a person’s religious beliefs had nothing to do with his proposal.
Duncan said he wants uniform regulations for driver’s license photos.
"It would just be equal treatment for everybody,” said Duncan, R-Sand Springs. "It doesn’t matter whether you’re a cowboy and take off your cowboy hat, a nun. No glasses, no Harley-Davidson bandannas, nothing on your head, no masks, nothing.”
The proposal, which Duncan included in House Bill 1645, passed the House last month, 88-8.
"It appears as though it didn’t even occur to them that this legislation would impact members of diverse religions — observant Sikhs who wear turbans, observant Jews who wear kippahs,” Jolly said.
"Fundamentally, we just reject this piece of legislation. It’s illegal and it’s un-American.”
HB 1645 has an uncertain fate in the Senate because the Senate author, Sen. Roger Ballenger, said Thursday he no longer will handle the bill, which started out as measure with cleanup language requested by the Department of Public Safety.
"In talking with DPS, they didn’t request the amendment and they do not have a problem with the present law on facial identification on driver’s license photographs,” said Ballenger, D-Okmulgee. "It appears to be a solution looking for a problem.”
Duncan said he wrote his proposal after a Muslim woman was allowed last month to wear her traditional Islamic head scarf for her driver’s license photograph.
Several months earlier, she was told she couldn’t wear the scarf, or hijab; the Oklahoma City chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations intervened and the Department of Public Safety said a head covering is permitted when taking the driver’s license photo as long as it does not obstruct or obscure a full frontal view of a person’s face from hairline to chin.
The national organization said it is asking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to determine whether Oklahoma’s bill would violate the U.S. Constitution. (MORE)
AUDIO: OK PROPOSES REQUIREMENTS FOR DRIVER’S LICENSE PHOTOS - TOP KOSU, 3/2/09
Click here to listen to the audio story.
As Muslims commemorate the birth of the prophet Muhammad beginning Saturday at dusk, some say that remembering the events of the prophet's life and the guidance revealed by the Quran are especially important this year, after some pointed attacks on the reputation of the man they believe to be God's messenger and the perfect human being.
Mawlid An-Nabi, the prophet's birthday, is remembered by Sunni Muslims on the 12th day of the third lunar month, and by the Shi'a on the 17th day.
In Metro Detroit, many Sunnis will mark it Saturday, and many Shi'a during the following week or next weekend. He was born in about 570.
"What we do is to read the Quran and the history of the prophet," said Akil Fahd, of the Tijani Zawiya, a Muslim center on the east side. "The thing that makes it more important this year than in other years is the attacks on the prophet and his character.
"It is more important this year to remember him for what he has done as opposed to the attacks that have been thrust upon him."
Many Muslims in Metro Detroit were distressed last year when DVDs of the movie "Obsession," which they say slandered Muhammad and Islam, were delivered to homes throughout Metro Detroit.
They also expressed indignation about local radio broadcasts by a Coptic priest who accused the prophet of unnatural acts, and by the Dutch film "Fitna," which interspersed readings from sacred Islamic texts with scenes of violence. (MORE)
For the first time, federal prosecutors in Alexandria, Va., have acknowledged that when Sami Al-Arian took a plea deal in early 2006, federal prosecutors in Tampa believed — as did Al-Arian — that it exempted him from testifying in other cases.
But with this surprising admission, which begins a 24-page document filed in Virginia federal court Wednesday night, comes a provocative argument: It doesn't matter.
"The understandings of the prosecutors who negotiated that agreement … are irrelevant to (Al-Arian's) guilt or innocence" for criminal contempt, wrote the Alexandria federal prosecutors, who maintain they are not bound by an agreement made in another district.
Despite what prosecutors in Tampa agreed to, the Virginia prosecutors argue they had a right to move Al-Arian to Virginia to testify. They also say that when Al-Arian repeatedly refused, citing a good-faith belief his plea agreement protected him, he was guilty of criminal contempt. He "willfully disobeyed," they say.
But U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema has said it does matter what he and the Tampa federal prosecutors agreed to. A criminal conviction could mean more prison time and she would need to see "a completely full record" to determine the length of his sentence.
Furthermore, Brinkema has said, she doesn't think "the Department of Justice can compartmentalize itself."
"This is not one U.S. Attorney's Office vs. another. … You have the United States Department of Justice … involved at both ends," she said. (MORE)
Senior CIA leaders met Wednesday night with about 30 Arab-American and Chaldean advocates to discuss ways to improve their relationship.
Held over dinner in a Southfield hotel, the meeting included Scott White, associate deputy director for the Central Intelligence Agency, and about half a dozen other CIA directors and officials, according to those who attended the meeting.
During the meeting, Scott talked about misperceptions of the CIA and said he was pleased to meet with local Arab Americans, said Imad Hamad, regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, who attended the dinner.
“It was a constructive meeting,” Hamad said. “We want to be partners and engage in a professional dialogue and relationship.”
Scott sought to dispel the stereotype that the CIA is just a spying agency, saying the agency offers a wide range of job opportunities. (MORE)
A Woodbridge travel agency must reimburse consumers about $276,000 for a trip to Mecca that never made it beyond the airport, according to a report in the Home News Tribune.
According to the report, the agency, Shama Hajj Zyiyarat Tours, and its owner, Molana Syed Alihaider Abidi, are also barred from advertising or selling any travel packages to Saudi Arabia. (MORE)
Human rights investigators say Israeli forces engaged in "wanton destruction" of Palestinian homes during the recent conflict in Gaza.
Amnesty International has told the BBC News website the methods used raised concerns about war crimes.
Israel's military said buildings were destroyed because of military "operational needs".
The Israeli Defense Forces said they operated in accordance with international law during the conflict.
However, the use of mines to destroy homes contradicted this claim, the head of the Amnesty International fact-finding mission to southern Israel and Gaza, Donatella Rovera, has argued.
Israeli troops had to leave their vehicles to plant the mines, indicating that they faced no danger and that there was no military or operational justification, she said. (MORE)
We had already visited this house, belonging to the Abu Eida family. It is the only one of the family's nine large houses that remained standing at the eastern edge of the city of Jabalya following Operation Cast Lead. The demolition of the family's houses and its four cement factories spells the loss of 40 years of hard work.
One Hebrew word scrawled on a wall tells the story of the 10 days when young Israeli soldiers became the ostensible prison wardens of five people. The youngest is Suheila Masalha, 55; the eldest is her mother Fatma, who is perhaps 85 or 90 or older. The only man is her brother Mohammed, 65, who is paralyzed and dependent on the women of his family. And there were two more women from the Abu Eida family - Rasmiya, 70, who owns the house, and her sister-in-law Na'ama, 56, who is blind.
"Jail" ("mikhla'a" in Hebrew), wrote the soldiers on the wall of the room where they kept the man and the four women. They did not allow them to use the toilet, but forced them to use all kinds of plastic containers kept in the room, for nine of the days. (MORE)
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