Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Facts about Muslim faith ignored as fear-mongering, fabrications spread

Hassan Shibly | Bradenton Herald | [ Read Original]

...What scares me as an American of Syrian descent and Muslim faith is how normal and acceptable it has become to use the same rhetoric against the Muslim community today that's been used against the Jewish community before the Holocaust and Japanese Americans before the internment camps.

I attended last week a talk at one of the leading local political and social clubs in Manatee County, where one of the main speakers, just like some of today's leading candidates and politicians, blanket referenced the Muslim community as a threat...
It is the same hate with a new target. In both cases, masses of otherwise reasonable people were and are misled by leaders to demonize an entire group of people and portray them as a threat. The "threat" is fabricated using outright lies, half-truths, and double standards....
In reality, the migration we see is a direct result of our failed foreign policy that destabilized the Middle East, such as the illegal invasion of Iraq, which led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians and the birth of groups like ISIS. They are fleeing persecution, war and destruction to seek freedom, justice and opportunity.
Yes, the Prophet Muhammad also migrated, but that was also to escape the oppression and persecution he and his followers faced at the brutal hands of the powerful of Mecca.
When the Prophet Muhammad called the powerful polytheists to worship One God and that all human beings were equal before God, the elite responded by torturing, killing and abusing the Muslims for disrupting their social order, which made the rich richer and the poor poorer.
Prophet Muhammad migrated to Medina to seek freedom of religion and fought several defensive battles while building alliances with Jewish and Christian communities.... [ Read Full Article]

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How Hate and Islamophobia Undermine America This Election Year

Hassan Shibly | Huffington Post | [Read Full Article]

What does it say about our country when the debate for the highest office in the land becomes about whose genitals are larger, who can kill the most civilians and reinstate torture, and which religious minorities to persecute?
Not only do the presidential debates reflect on the poor quality of those we select as leaders, but their rhetoric often reflects a disregard for human life and is reminiscent of the rhetoric of the worst historical figures who have brought down democracies and enabled crimes against humanity.
They say those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. And that the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. What scares me as an American of Syrian descent and Muslim faith is how normal and acceptable it has become to use the same rhetoric against the Muslim community today that's been used against the Jewish community before the holocaust and Japanese Americans before the internment camps.
Have we not learned what has happened in history when an entire group of people are categorized as a threat based on their race or religion?
Prior to the holocaust, the Nazi propaganda machine spoke about the "Jewish problem" and how allegedly the Jewish community was organized in a diabolical scheme for world domination, and that Jews were liars and could not be trusted or be loyal to the state. Those are verbatim the same arguments that we hear made against Muslims today and which far too many Americans find acceptable. It is the same hate with a new target.
In both cases, masses of otherwise reasonable people, were and are misled by leaders to demonize an entire group of people and portray them as a threat. The "threat" is fabricated using outright lies, half-truths, and double standards. What is scary is when otherwise normal people are willing to rally behind leaders who advocate for the curtailment of the civil rights of minorities, while other leaders remain silent. [ Read More ]

Friday, October 16, 2015

Islamophobia & Religious Freedom by Hassan Shibly at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Gainesville

"We are honored today to have as our pulpit guest Hassan Shibly. A lawyer, a speaker, and a teacher, Mr. Shibly has dedicated his life to fostering a healthy cohesive relationship between the between American Muslims & society at large. He has taught courses on Islamic belief, law, history, spirituality and culture and serves as a consultant on Islam for NGO's, non-profit organizations, government agencies, media organizations, youth groups, and law enforcement. He lives with his wife and three children in the Tampa area, where among his other activities he serves as executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations. Please welcome Mr. Hassan Shibly."

"When we understand one another, by nature, we will also respect and love each other. It is my vision that any community where all cultures are understood and respected will be beacon of hope for the world." - Hassan Shibly

BUSTED: Feds arrest Fox News ‘terrorism expert’ for pretending to be a former CIA agent

A Recurring Fox News guest who claimed to be a long-time CIA agent was indicted and arrested Thursday for not, in fact, being a CIA agent.
Wayne Simmons claimed to have 23 years experience with the secretive federal agency as an “outside paramilitary special operations officer,” CNN reports. He was indicted for using that claim to gain security clearances and a post as a defense contractor advising military personnel overseas.
On his website, Simmons claims he joined the U.S. Navy in 1973, where he was recruited by the CIA,” and “spearheaded Deep Cover Intel Ops against some of the world’s most dangerous Drug Cartels and arms smugglers from Central and South America and the Middle East.”
Simmons also claims he has been a “terrorism analyst” for Fox News since 2002. In 2004, he claims former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld recruited him to join the Pentagon Outreach Program for Military and Intelligence Analysts.
A Fox News spokeswoman told CNN that Simmons was an unpaid guest and never a host for the station, and declined further comment.
CNN pointed out that Simmons had a pattern of making “extreme and factually dubious” claims about terrorism, including a claim in January that there were “at least 19 paramilitary Muslim training facilities in the United States.”
He also denied waterboarding was torture and said that President Obama was a “novice who lacked a spine,” according to CNN.
Officials told the station that there had been suspicions about Simmons’ resume which were stirred when questions were raised with various government agencies about his statements.
As part of the indictment, Simmons is also accused of defrauding a victim out of $125,000 in a real estate-related scam.
If convicted, Simmons could face decades in prison for all counts, including 20 years for wire fraud, 10 years for major fraud against the U.S, and 5 years for false statements.

Nathan Crabbe: Showcasing efforts to improve the planet

"Conflict-driven coverage can give the public a narrow view of people and places with which they are unfamiliar. I saw an example during a speech last week at the Florida Free Speech Forum by Hassan Shibly, chief executive director of the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

A questioner asked Shibly why Islamic leaders weren't more critical of terrorists who kill and maim in the name of their faith. Shibly said that Muslims have actually been extremely vocal in condemning such violence, suggesting that those who think otherwise should “Google it."

He's right: A Google search for “Islamic leaders condemning terrorism” generated 6.4 million results. Yet terrorists gets the headlines, not Muslim leaders speaking out against extremism.

In today's section you'll find a guest column by Shibly, along with a piece by Anita Spring on Gainesville's United Nations Day event this week. I'm proud to be serving as chairman of this year's event."

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The belief system of the Islamophobes

The discourse over Muslims today resembles the manner in which Jews were vilified around a century ago.

Arun Kundnani

Arun Kundnani is the author of The Muslims are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror.
Since the 1970s, Muslims have repeatedly been stereotyped in the US as dangerous terrorists. But, over the last six years, a new fear of Muslims has gradually entered the conservative mainstream: that Muslims are taking over the United States and imposing "sharia law".
In 2011, Republican Congressman Allen West called Islam a "fifth column" that had infiltrated US institutions. In a 2010 speech in Washington, Newt Gingrichdescribed sharia as "a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States".
Another candidate, Herman Cain, condemned what he called the "attempt to gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government", and said he would introduce a special loyalty test for Muslims wanting to serve in his administration. Another US Representative, Michele Bachmann, declared that sharia "must be resisted across the United States" and demanded national security officials investigate Muslim Brotherhood infiltration into the federal government.
Such fears are paranoid and lack any basis in reality. No significant Muslim organisation has called for sharia in the United States. For most devout Muslims in the US, sharia is a personal, moral code rather than a political programme.
Imminent Islamic takeover
Nevertheless, many conservatives view an imminent Islamic takeover as a real danger. The currentleaders in the 2016 Republican presidential field are playing on that fear. Donald Trump and Ben Carson have both made anti-Muslim comments in the last two weeks.
On NBC's Meet The Press show broadcast earlier this month, retired neurosurgeon Carson said: "I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that."

A few days earlier, during a question and answer session at a New Hampshire campaign rally, a Trump supporter said: "We have a problem in this country. It's called Muslims."
Trump nodded in response.
recent poll in Iowa found only around half of Republicans thought Islam should be legal in the United States. Forty-three percent of Republicans believe Obama is Muslim, according to a CNN poll. These attitudes are not simply a spontaneous reaction to 9/11. After all, this kind of rhetoric only really got going several years later. Nor are they a reaction to the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Beyond the headlines lies an organised and well-funded propaganda campaign. According to an investigation by the Center for American Progress, seven conservative foundations spent over $40m on anti-Muslim propaganda between 2001 and 2009. Others estimate the amount spent is over $100m.
Among the groups funded is Brigitte Gabriel's ACT! For America, which has 170,000 members and models itself on the highly successful National Rifle Association.
The aim of this propaganda is to popularise an anti-Muslim version of the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that began to circulate a century ago. Like anti-Semitism, Islamophobia is not only about hatred. It is also an ideology that seeks to connect with people's social, economic, and political frustrations and advocate a course of action, even if the explanation and the action are based on falsehoods.
Secret sharia
Clearly, no national problems can plausibly be blamed on Islam. To have any effect, Islamophobic ideology needs a conspiracy theory that says the US is, despite appearances, secretly run by Muslims. Muslims can then be portrayed as a hidden force preventing American renewal. The message is a convenient one for the US ruling elite: don't blame the people who actually run the US, just smell the sharia.
To the Islamophobe, the US government is not what it seems. The Muslim Brotherhood has placed a Muslim in the White House and is implementing its secret sharia plan. It begins with school textbooks in Texas trying to present Islam in a positive light, Campbell's bringing out a halal version of its iconic soups, or the Obama White House refusing to use the phrase "Islamic terrorism".
Then, one day, Americans will wake up to an Islamic government. Europe, with its larger Muslim population, has already succumbed: It is now Eurabia, an Arab colony; London has already become Londonistan.
A century ago, America's Jews were likewise seen as infiltrators threatening Western values. Central to US anti-Semitic ideology was also a conspiracy theory that presented Jews as secretly pulling the strings of international finance and world revolution. Henry Ford, for example, used the pages of his Dearborn Independent newspaper to propagandise such views in the 1920s.
The modern discourse over Muslims today resembles the manner in which Jews were talked about then. In both cases, a religious minority is seen as a dangerous underclass destroying society from below with their alien values, as well as a hidden force secretly controlling the world from above, through their infiltration of centres of power.
American Jews were eventually able to overcome the worst anti-Semitism of the 20th century and establish security and equality in the US. Will Muslims be able to do the same? Unfortunately, history never repeats itself in the same way. The key difference is that, today, widespread anti-Muslim fears among the public provide a justifying pretext for a global US empire that did not exist in the 1920s. Islamophobia is not just an irrational fear, but a belief system that is useful to sections of power.
Opposing anti-Muslim conspiracy theories and all of their accompanying rhetoric are not just about defending the civil rights of Muslims in the US. It is also about removing one of the ideological supports of US imperialism.
Arun Kundnani is the author of The Muslims are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror and teaches at New York University.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Army of God? 6 Modern-Day Christian Terrorist Groups You Never Hear About

Just because they don't get as much coverage as ISIS or Boko Haram doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) recently released an in-depth report on terrorism in the United States. Covering April 2009 to February 2015, the report (titled “The Age of the Wolf”) found that during that period, “more people have been killed in America by non-Islamic domestic terrorists than jihadists.” The SPLC asserted that “the jihadist threat is a tremendous one,” pointing out that al-Qaeda’s attacks of September 11, 2001 remain the deadliest in U.S. history. But the study also noted that the second deadliest was carried out not by Islamists, but by Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995—and law enforcement, the SPLC stressed, are doing the public a huge disservice if they view terrorism as an exclusively Islamist phenomenon.
The report, in a sense, echoed the assertions that President Barack Obama made when he spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast in February and stressed that Muslims don’t have the market cornered on religious extremism. In the minds of far-right Republicans, Obama committed the ultimate sin by daring to mention that Christianity has a dark side and citing the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition as two examples from the distant past. Obama wasn’t attacking Christianity on the whole but rather, was making the point that just as not all Christians can be held responsible for the horrors of the Inquisition, not all Muslims can be blamed for the violent extremism of ISIS (the Islamic State, Iraq and Syria), the Taliban, al-Qaeda or Boko Haram. But Obama certainly didn’t need to look 800 or 900 years in the past to find examples of extreme Christianists committing atrocities. Violent Christianists are a reality in different parts of the world—including the United States—and the fact that the mainstream media don’t give them as much coverage as ISIS or Boko Haram doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.

Below are six extreme Christianist groups that have shown their capacity for violence and fanaticism.

1. The Army of God
A network of violent Christianists that has been active since the early 1980s, the Army of God openly promotes killing abortion providers—and the long list of terrorists who have been active in that organization has included Paul Jennings Hill (who was executed by lethal injection in 2003 for the 1994 killings of abortion doctor John Britton and his bodyguard James Barrett), John C. Salvi (who killed two receptionists when he attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic in Brookline, Massachusetts in 1994) and Eric Rudolph, who is serving life in prison for his role in the Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta in 1996 and other terrorist acts. Rudolph, in fact, has often been exalted as a Christian hero on the Army of God’s website, as have fellow Army of God members such as Scott Roeder (who is serving life without parole for murdering Wichita, Kansas-based abortion doctor George Tiller in 2009), Shelley Shannon (who attempted to kill Tiller in 2003) and Michael Frederick Griffin (who is serving a life sentence for the 1993 killing of Dr. David Gunn, an OB-GYN, in Pensacola, Florida).
Although primarily an anti-abortion organization, the Army of God also has a history of promoting violence against gays. And one of the terrorist acts that Rudolph confessed to was bombing a lesbian bar in Atlanta in 1997.

2. Eastern Lightning, a.k.a. the Church of the Almighty God
Founded in Henan Province, China in 1990, Eastern Lightning (also known as the Church of the Almighty God or the Church of the Gospel’s Kingdom) is a Christianist cult with an end-time/apocalypse focus: Eastern Lightning believes that the world is coming to an end, and in the meantime, its duty is to slay as many demons as possible. While most Christianists have an extremely patriarchal viewpoint (much like their Islamist counterparts) and consider women inferior to men, Eastern Lightning believe that Jesus Christ will return to Earth in the form of a Chinese woman. But they are quite capable of violence against women: in May 2014, for example, members of the cult beat a 37-year-old woman named Wu Shuoyan to death in a McDonalds in Zhaoyuan, China when she refused to give them her phone number. Eastern Lightning members Zhang Lidong and his daughter, Zhang Fan, were convicted of murder for the crime and executed in February. In a 2014 interview in prison, Lidong expressed no remorse when he said of Shuoyan, “I beat her with all my might and stamped on her too. She was a demon. We had to destroy her.”
Eastern Lightning’s other acts of violence have ranged from the killing of a grammar school student in 2010 (in retaliation, police believe, for one of the child’s relatives wanting to leave the cult) to cult member Min Yongjun using a knife to attack an elderly woman and a group of schoolchildren in Chenpeng in 2012. Christian groups are not exempt from Eastern Lightning’s fanaticism: in 2002, cult members kidnapped 34 members of a Christian group called the China Gospel Fellowship and held them captive for two months in the hope of forcing them to join their cult. Although mainly active in the communist People’s Republic of China, Eastern Lighting has been trying to expand its membership in Hong Kong.

3. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)
The mainstream media have had much to say about the Islamist brutality of Boko Haram, but one terrorist group they haven’t paid nearly as much attention to is the Lord’s Resistance Army—which was founded by Joseph Kony (a radical Christianist) in Uganda in 1987 and has called for the establishment of a severe Christian fundamentalist government in that country. The LRA, according to Human Rights Watch, has committed thousands of killings and kidnappings—and along the way, its terrorism spread from Uganda to parts of the Congo, the Central African Republic (CAR) and South Sudan. The word “jihadist” is seldom used in connection with the LRA, but in fact, the LRA’s tactics are not unlike those of ISIS or Boko Haram. And the governments Kony hopes to establish in Sub-Saharan Africa would implement a Christianist equivalent of Islamic Sharia law.

4. TheNational Liberation Front of Tripura
India is not only a country of Hindus and Sikhs, but also, of Muslims, Buddhists, Catholics and Protestants. Most of India’s Christians are peaceful, but a major exception is the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT). Active in the state of Tripura in Northeastern India since 1989, NLFT is a paramilitary Christianist movement that hopes to secede from India and establish a Christian fundamentalist government in Tripura. NLFT has zero tolerance for any religion other than Christianity, and the group has repeatedly shown a willingness to kill, kidnap or torture Hindus who refuse to be converted to its extreme brand of Protestant fundamentalism.
In 2000, NLFT vowed to kill anyone who participated in Durga Puja (an annual Hindu festival) And in May 2003, at least 30 Hindus were murdered during one of NLFT’s killing sprees.

5. The Phineas Priesthood
White supremacist groups don’t necessarily have a religious orientation: some of them welcome atheists as long as they believe in white superiority. But the Christian Identity movement specifically combines white supremacist ideology with Christianist terrorism, arguing that violence against non-WASPs is ordained by God and that white Anglo Saxon Protestants are God’s chosen people. The modern Christian Identity movement in the U.S. has been greatly influenced by the Ku Klux Klan—an organization that has committed numerous acts of terrorism over the years—and in the 1970s, new Christian Identity groups like the Aryan Nations and the Covenant, the Sword and the Arm of the Lord (CSA) emerged. Another Christian Identity group of recent decades has been the Phineas Priesthood, whose members have been involved in violent activities ranging from abortion clinic bombings to bank robberies (mainly in the Pacific Northwest). On November 28, 2014, Phineas Priesthood member Larry Steven McQuilliams went on a violent rampage in Austin, Texas—where he fired over 100 rounds at various targets (including a federal courthouse, the local Mexican Consulate building and a police station) before being shot and killed by police.

6. The Concerned Christians
One of the ironic things about some Christianists is the fact that although they believe that Jews must be converted to Christianity, they consider themselves staunch supporters of Israel. And some of them believe in violently forcing all Muslims out of Israel. The Concerned Christians, a Christianist doomsday cult that was founded by pastor Monte “Kim” Miller in Denver in the 1980s, alarmed Colorado residents when, in 1998, at least 60 of its members suddenly quit their jobs, abandoned their homes and went missing—and it turned out there was reason for concern. In 1999, Israeli officials arrested 14 members of the Concerned Christians in Jerusalem and deported them from Israel because they suspected them of plotting terrorist attacks against Muslims. One likely target, according to Israeli police, was Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque—the same mosque that was targeted in 1969 (when a Christianist from Australia named Denis Michael Rohan unsuccessfully tried to destroy it by arson) and, Israeli police suspect, was a likely target in 2014 (when Adam Everett Livix, a Christianist from Texas, was arrested by Israeli police on suspicion of plotting to blow up Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem).

In 2008, Denver’s KUSA-TV (an NBC affiliate) reported that members of the Concerned Citizens had gone into hiding and that Miller hadn’t been seen in ten years.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Research shows news overrepresents Muslims as perpetrators of domestic terrorism

11:50 AM, Jan 9, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Viewers of national television news see far more images of Muslims as domestic terrorists and Latinos as immigrant lawbreakers than is actually the case in statistics, according to a recently published study by a communications professor at the University of Illinois.
The study, published online last month by the Journal of Communication, sampled 146 episodes of news programs focused on breaking news carried by major broadcast and cable networks between 2008 and 2012.  Ninety of the programs included crime stories.

Travis Dixon, who led the research while a professor at the University of California in Los Angeles, found that among those described as domestic terrorists in the news reports, 81 percent were identifiable as Muslims. Yet in FBI reports from those years, only 6 percent of domestic terror suspects were Muslim.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Are All Terrorists Muslims? It’s Not Even Close

Dean Obeidallah | The Daily Beast | Full Article

...As Europol, the European Union’s law-enforcement agency, noted in its report released last year, the vast majority of terror attacks in Europe were perpetrated by separatist groups. For example, in 2013, there were 152 terror attacks in Europe. Only two of them were “religiously motivated,” while 84 were predicated upon ethno-nationalist or separatist beliefs....Even after one of the worst terror attacks ever in Europe in 2011, when Anders Breivik slaughtered 77 people in Norway to further his anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and pro-“Christian Europe” agenda as he stated in his manifesto, how much press did we see in the United States? Yes, it was covered, but not the way we see when a Muslim terrorist is involved. Plus we didn’t see terrorism experts fill the cable news sphere asking how we can stop future Christian terrorists. In fact, even the suggestion that Breivik was a “Christian terrorist” was met with outrage by many, including Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly.
Have you heard about the Buddhist terrorists? Well, extremist Buddhists havekilled many Muslim civilians in Burma, and just a few months ago in Sri Lanka, some went on a violent rampage burning down Muslim homes and businesses andslaughtering four Muslims.
Or what about the (dare I mention them) Jewish terrorists? Per the 2013 State Department’s report on terrorism, there were 399 acts of terror committed by Israeli settlers in what are known as “price tag” attacks. These Jewish terrorists attacked Palestinian civilians causing physical injuries to 93 of them and also vandalized scores of mosques and Christian churches....Back in the United States, the percentage of terror attacks committed by Muslims is almost as miniscule as in Europe. An FBI study looking at terrorism committed on U.S. soil between 1980 and 2005 found that 94 percent of the terror attacks were committed by non-Muslims. In actuality, 42 percent of terror attacks were carried out by Latino-related groups, followed by 24 percent perpetrated by extreme left-wing actors.
And as a 2014 study by University of North Carolina found, since the 9/11 attacks, Muslim-linked terrorism has claimed the lives of 37 Americans. In that same time period, more than 190,000 Americans were murdered (PDF).
In fact in 2013, it was actually more likely Americans would be killed by a toddler than a terrorist. In that year, three Americans were killed in the Boston Marathon bombing. How many people did toddlers kill in 2013? Five, all by accidentallyshooting a gun.
But our media simply do not cover the non-Muslim terror attacks with same gusto. Why? It’s a business decision. Stories about scary “others” play better. It’s a story that can simply be framed as good versus evil with Americans being the good guy and the brown Muslim as the bad.... [Read Full Article]

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Stop asking Muslims to condemn terrorism. It's bigoted and Islamophobic.

Vox | Max Fisher | 12/15/2014

There's a certain ritual that each and every one of the world's billion-plus Muslims, especially those living in Western countries, is expected to go through immediately following any incident of violence involving a Muslim perpetrator. It's a ritual that is continuing now with the Sydney hostage crisis, in which a deranged self-styled sheikh named Man Haron Monis took several people hostage in a downtown café.

Here is what Muslims and Muslim organizations are expected to say: "As a Muslim, I condemn this attack and terrorism in any form."

This expectation we place on Muslims, to be absolutely clear, is Islamophobic and bigoted. The denunciation is a form of apology: an apology for Islam and for Muslims. The implication is that every Muslim is under suspicion of being sympathetic to terrorism unless he or she explicitly says otherwise. The implication is also that any crime committed by a Muslim is the responsibility of all Muslims simply by virtue of their shared religion. This sort of thinking — blaming an entire group for the actions of a few individuals, assuming the worst about a person just because of their identity — is the very definition of bigotry.

It is time for that ritual to end: non-Muslims in all countries, and today especially those in Australia, should finally take on the correct assumption that Muslims hate terrorism just as much as they do, and cease expecting Muslims to prove their innocence just because of their faith.

Bigoted assumptions are the only plausible reason for this ritual to exist, which means that maintaining the ritual is maintaining bigotry. Otherwise, we wouldn't expect Muslims to condemn Haron Monis — who is clearly a crazy person who has no affiliations with formal religious groups — any more than we would expect Christians to condemn Timothy McVeigh. Similarly, if someone blames all Jews for the act of, say, extremist Israeli settlers in the West Bank, we immediately and correctly reject that position as prejudiced. We understand that such an accusation is hateful and wrong — but not when it is applied to Muslims.

This is, quite literally, a different set of standards that we apply only to Muslims... [Continue Reading Full Story]

Friday, November 14, 2014

Hassan Shibly: CAIR strikes right balance between protecting security and liberty

Hassan Shibly | Special to the Tampa Tribune | 11/14/2014 [Read Original]

Regarding “Don’t stifle FBI’s terror effort” (Our Views, Nov. 7):

It is easy for editors who are not attorneys and have not represented hundreds of victims of FBI abuse to give ill-informed legal advice and advise the public to waive the constitutionally protected right to have an attorney present when approached by the FBI.

America is one of the few nations in the world whose Constitution assumes that the people should take precautions to hold the government accountable. Exercising one’s constitutionally protected right to have a lawyer present when approached by the FBI helps ensure agents are behaving both constitutionally and efficiently. Meanwhile, people who feel their rights are secured with legal counsel present will have the confidence to be more open.

Our concern with the FBI selectively targeting the Muslim community for interrogation and recruitment of agent provocateurs is primarily because it has been documented that such profiling is ineffective, a waste of resources and actually makes our nation less safe and less free. Law enforcement must invest our limited public resources conducting investigations based on probable cause, not religious profiling. Having a lawyer present ensures that the FBI has a legitimate investigative purpose for interrogating Americans and are not acting based on politically acceptable biases that merely serve to intimidate religious minorities and waste taxpayer dollars.

Even though the Trib failed to request any such evidence from us, it claimed “there is no evidence local FBI agents have been abusive.” I’ll wager that the Trib’s own police reporters would find this assertion patently naïve. The Founders did not write the Bill of Rights and then reject it because there was no evidence that the new American government was going to be abusive.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has documented how the FBI has targeted law-abiding American Muslims for interrogation and coerced recruitment as agent provocateurs. According to Trevor Aaronson, executive director of the Florida Center for Investigative Journalism, such FBI tactics are similar to that used by the Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO) against the African-American civil rights movement decades ago and has included engaging in blackmail, extortion and threats of harm to self, family and friends. Coerced individuals are then forced into mosques to promote radical violent extremism — using taxpayer dollars — to unstable and mentally disturbed youths.

These programs are not only contrary to the protections enshrined in the Constitution, but are ineffective and make our nation less safe and less free. Even with the rise of Islamic State, those engaging in acts of terrorism on U.S. soil have more often attended churches or synagogue than mosques, and yet the FBI is not engaging in similar tactics against the Christian or Jewish communities — nor should they.

Engaging in criminal plans should make one the subject of a FBI investigation — not following a particular faith. When the FBI wastes resources in questioning individuals who have engaged in no wrongdoing, they may miss catching some of the overwhelming amount of criminals and terrorists who have nothing to do with that faith.

The Trib used Sami Osmakac as an example. The Trib does not mention that Osmakac would not have had the potential ability to harm our community without facilitation by paid FBI agent provocateurs or that in the same time frame several terrorist attacks were planned in Tampa by disturbed youths who, unlike Osmakac, were not Muslim.

Selective targeting of a religious minority by the federal government undermines the Constitution and harms America as a whole. CAIR has documented how many FBI agents have received false training that the entire Muslim community is a threat and that Muslims are not entitled to First Amendment rights. In Florida and nationwide, the Muslim community has often reported extremists espousing violence in mosques who turned out to be paid FBI agent provocateurs. Examples such as these abound.

Let us not forget that only last year an FBI agent who had a documented history of beating up suspects and witnesses and falsifying evidence, threatened several Orlando Muslims with false charges to pressure them to become informants, and then shot in the back and killed one of them after six hours of interrogation in their home three days later.

Counter-productive tactics that infringe upon the rights of religious minorities are not necessary to keep our nation safe. American Muslims are invested in the security of our nation and have a track record of voluntary cooperation with law enforcement on the rare occasion a threat should arise. Former FBI Director Robert Mueller told the U.S. House Judiciary Committee that “many of our cases are a result of the cooperation from the Muslim community in the United States.” The U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida also has repeatedly thanked the Muslim community for helping keep Florida safe.

We are not a nation of fearful people. Our rights are not things to be cast aside because someone scary threatens us. Groups such as IS strip people of their rights, and we should not do this in America. If we willingly cast aside the liberty that previous generations have bled for, then the terrorists win.

Just as taking precautionary measures to protect our security is reasonable, taking precautionary measures to protect our rights is also reasonable. That is why CAIR’s recommendation of having legal counsel present when talking to law enforcement is the right balance. Neither liberty nor security is sacrificed. Instead, both are protected.

Hassan Shibly, Esq., of Tampa is chief executive director of CAIR Florida.

Monday, September 1, 2014

“Spin” [Documentary] (Video)


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Friends of Israel

A must read on how the Zionist American community effectively organized themselves to strongly influence US politics and how that is changing, with key lessons our community can learn:

It is very long but below are some key parts:


This is precisely the kind of ambivalence that AIPAC adherents describe as destructive. And yet even Israeli politicians recognize that AIPAC faces a shifting landscape of opinion. Shimon Peres, who served as Prime Minister and, most recently, as President, says, “My impression is that AIPAC is weaker among the younger people. It has a solid majority of people of a certain age, but it’s not the same among younger people.”..

" Members’ contributions were often bundled. “AIPAC will select some dentist in Boise, say, to be the bundler,” a former longtime AIPAC member said. “They tell people in New York and other cities to send their five-thousand-dollar checks to him. But AIPAC has to teach people discipline—because all those people who are giving five thousand dollars would ordinarily want recognition. The purpose is to make the dentist into a big shot—he’s the one who has all this money to give to the congressman’s campaign.” AIPAC representatives tried to match each member of Congress with a contact who shared the congressman’s interests. If a member of Congress rode a Harley-Davidson, AIPAC found a contact who did, too. The goal was to develop people who could get a member of Congress on the phone at a moment’s notice."

In the early days, Howard Berman said, “AIPAC was knocking on an unlocked door.” Most Americans have been favorably disposed toward Israel since its founding, and no other lobby spoke for them on a national scale. Unlike other lobbies—such as the N.R.A., which is opposed by various anti-gun groups—AIPAC did not face a significant and well-funded countervailing force. It also had the resources to finance an expensive and emotionally charged form of persuasion. Dine estimated that in the eighties and nineties contributions from AIPAC members often constituted roughly ten to fifteen per cent of a typical congressional campaign budget. AIPAC provided lavish trips to Israel for legislators and other opinion-makers.

Nevertheless, the lobby did not endorse or rank candidates. “We made the decision to be one step removed,” Dine said. “Orrin Hatch once said, ‘Dine, your genius is to play an invisible bass drum, and the Jews hear it when you play it.’ ” In 1982, after an Illinois congressman named Paul Findley described himself as “Yasir Arafat’s best friend in Congress,” AIPAC members encouraged Dick Durbin, a political unknown, to run against him. Robert Asher, a Chicago businessman, sent out scores of letters to his friends, along with Durbin’s position paper on Israel, asking them to send checks. Durbin won, and he is now the Senate Majority Whip. (Findley later wrote a book that made extravagant claims about the power of the Israel lobby.) In 1984, AIPAC affiliates decided that Senator Charles Percy, an Illinois Republican, was unfriendly to Israel. In the next election, Paul Simon, a liberal Democrat, won Percy’s seat. Dine said at the time, “Jews in America, from coast to coast, gathered to oust Percy. And American politicians—those who hold public positions now, and those who aspire—got the message.”…

In the spring of 2008, AIPAC moved from cramped quarters on Capitol Hill to a gleaming new seven-story building on H Street, downtown. At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Howard Kohr introduced Sheldon Adelson, a casino magnate who had been a generous donor to AIPAC since the nineties, and who had helped underwrite congressional trips to Israel (paying only for Republican members). On this bright spring day, according to someone who was in the audience, Adelson recalled that Kohr had telephoned him, asking him to have lunch. Adelson remembered wondering, How much is this lunch going to cost me? Well, he went on, it cost him ten million dollars: the building was the result. He later told his wife that Kohr should have asked him for fifty million….

AIPAC’s hold on Congress has become institutionalized. Each year, a month or two before the annual policy conference, AIPAC officials tell key members what measures they want, so that their activists have something to lobby for. “Every year, we create major legislation, so they can justify their existence to their members,” the former congressional aide said. (AIPAC maintains that only members of Congress initiate legislative action.) AIPAC board meetings are held in Washington each month, and directors visit members of Congress. They generally address them by their first names, even if they haven’t met before. The intimacy is presumed, but also, at times, earned; local AIPAC staffers, in the manner of basketball recruiters, befriend some members when they are still serving on the student council. “If you have a dream about running for office, AIPAC calls you,” one House member said. Certainly, it’s a rarity when someone undertakes a campaign for the House or the Senate today without hearing from AIPAC.

In 1996, Brian Baird, a psychologist from Seattle, decided to run for Congress. Local Democrats asked if he had thought about what he was going to say to AIPAC. “I had admired Israel since I was a kid,” Baird told me. “But I also was fairly sympathetic to peaceful resolution and the Palestinian side. These people said, ‘We respect that, but let’s talk about the issues and what you might say.’ The difficult reality is this: in order to get elected to Congress, if you’re not independently wealthy, you have to raise a lot of money. And you learn pretty quickly that, if AIPAC is on your side, you can do that. They come to you and say, ‘We’d be happy to host ten-thousand-dollar fund-raisers for you, and let us help write your annual letter, and please come to this multi-thousand-person dinner.’ ” Baird continued, “Any member of Congress knows that AIPAC is associated indirectly with significant amounts of campaign spending if you’re with them, and significant amounts against you if you’re not with them.” For Baird, AIPAC-connected money amounted to about two hundred thousand dollars in each of his races—“and that’s two hundred thousand going your way, versus the other way: a four-hundred-thousand-dollar swing.”…

Soon after taking office, Baird went on a “virtually obligatory” trip to Israel: a freshman ritual in which everything—business-class flights, accommodations at the King David or the Citadel—is paid for by AIPAC’s charitable arm. The tours are carefully curated. “They do have you meet with the Palestinian leaders, in a sort of token process,” Baird said. “But then when you’re done with it they tell you everything the Palestinian leaders said that’s wrong. And, of course, the Palestinians don’t get to have dinner with you at the hotel that night.”…

In early 2009, after a brief truce between Israel and Hamas collapsed in a series of mutual provocations, Israel carried out Operation Cast Lead, an incursion into Gaza in which nearly fourteen hundred Palestinians were killed, along with thirteen Israelis. Baird visited the area a few weeks later and returned several times. As he wrote in an op-ed, he saw “firsthand the devastating destruction of hospitals, schools, homes, industries, and infrastructure.” That September, the U.N. Human Rights Council issued a report, based on an inquiry led by the South African jurist Richard Goldstone, that accused Israel of a series of possible war crimes. AIPAC attacked the report, saying it was “rigged.” A month later, an AIPAC-sponsored resolution to condemn the report was introduced in the House, and three hundred and forty-four members voted in favor. “I read every single word of that report, and it comported with what I had seen and heard on the ground in Gaza,” Baird said. “When we had the vote, I said, ‘We have member after member coming to the floor to vote on a resolution they’ve never read, about a report they’ve never seen, in a place they’ve never been.’ ” Goldstone came under such pressure that threats were made to ban him from his grandson’s bar mitzvah at a Johannesburg synagogue. He eventually wrote an op-ed in which he expressed regret for his conclusions, saying, “Civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.” Other members of the council stood by the report.

Baird said, “When key votes are cast, the question on the House floor, troublingly, is often not ‘What is the right thing to do for the United States of America?’ but ‘How is AIPAC going to score this?’ ” He added, “There’s such a conundrum here, of believing that you’re supporting Israel, when you’re actually backing policies that are antithetical to its highest values and, ultimately, destructive for the country.” In talks with Israeli officials, he found that his inquiries were not treated with much respect. In 2003, one of his constituents, Rachel Corrie, was killed by a bulldozer driven by an Israeli soldier, as she protested the demolition of Palestinians’ homes in Gaza. At first, he said, the officials told him, “There’s a simple explanation—here are the facts.” Or, “We will look into it.” But, when he continued to press, something else would emerge. “There is a disdain for the U.S., and a dismissal of any legitimacy of our right to question—because who are we to talk about moral values?” Baird told me. “Whether it’s that we didn’t help early enough in the Holocaust, or look at what we did to our African-Americans, or our Native Americans—whatever! And they see us, members of Congress, as basically for sale. So they want us to shut up and play the game.”…

“I think there is a growing sense among members that things are done just to placate AIPAC, and that AIPAC is not really working to advance what is in the interest of the United States.” He concluded, “We all took an oath of office. And AIPAC, in many instances, is asking us to ignore it.”

A few months later, the Gaza war began, and AIPAC mobilized again. “There were conference calls, mass e-mails, talking points for the day,” a congressional aide said. “AIPAC activists would e-mail me, with fifteen other AIPAC activists cc’d, and then those people would respond, saying, ‘I agree entirely with what the first e-mail said!’ ”…

It didn’t hurt AIPAC’s cause that the enemy was Hamas, whose suicide bombings a decade ago killed hundreds of Israeli civilians, and whose rocket attacks in recent years have terrorized citizens, particularly in southern Israel. As Israel pressed its offensive, and hundreds of Palestinian civilians were killed, AIPAC argued, as did Netanyahu, that the casualties came only because Hamas was using human shields. Online, AIPAC posted a short film, “Israel’s Moral Defense,” which depicted an Israeli major in a quandary. Looking at a schoolyard filled with girls in neat uniforms, he sees fighters with a rocket launcher not far behind them. Should he order his men to fire their machine guns, and risk hitting the girls, or hold back, and risk the rocket killing Israelis? “I didn’t pull the trigger,” the soldier says. “We are totally different. . . . I am very proud to be in an army that has this level of morality.” A couple of weeks after the film appeared, Israeli shells struck a United Nations school in the Jabaliya refugee camp, killing twenty-one people and injuring more than ninety; it was the sixth U.N. school that Israel had bombed. The next day, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, pointed out that, as Israeli forces attacked homes, schools, and hospitals, the U.S. was supplying them with heavy weaponry. Almost simultaneously, the House passed an AIPAC-supported resolution denouncing Hamas’s use of human shields and condemning an inquiry into Israel’s Gaza operations that Pillay was sponsoring.

According to congressional staffers, some members of Congress seemed eager to make up for their recent apostasy on the Iran negotiations. While Reid and his colleagues went to extraordinary lengths to fund the Iron Dome missile-defense system, the House leadership engaged in the same mission. The vote in the House came late on the night of Friday, August 1st—the last possible moment before the summer recess. The earlier resolutions that AIPAC had sponsored during the war had passed unanimously, with no record of individual votes, but on this vote the roll was called. (AIPAC sometimes asks congressional leaders to call the roll when a decisive victory seems likely.) “I think AIPAC thought this vote would be one hundred per cent,” Jim Moran, a Democrat from Virginia, said. It was close: out of four hundred and thirty-five members, only eight voted no. Moran, who has been in Congress since 1990, and is retiring this year, was one of four Democrats who voted against the resolution. As a longtime member of the Defense Appropriations Committee, he did not believe that there was any urgent need for the funding. “We have put about nine hundred million dollars into the Iron Dome,” he argued. “We know that there are many millions unexpended in Israel’s Iron Dome account. And Israel was to get three hundred and fifty-one million on October 1st, for Iron Dome.”

Beto O’Rourke, a freshman Democrat from El Paso, also voted against the funding. “I tried to find him on the floor, but I couldn’t,” Moran said. “I wanted him to switch his vote. Now, he might not have switched it anyway, because—as shocking as it may be—he’s in Congress solely to do what he considers to be the right thing. I’m afraid he may have a tough race in November.” The morning after the vote, O’Rourke e-mailed a local AIPAC activist, Stuart Schwartz, to explain his vote, according to a knowledgeable person. In his explanation, which he also posted on Facebook, he pointed out that he had voted for Iron Dome in the past, and had supported the funds that were scheduled to arrive in October. But, he wrote, “I could not in good conscience vote for borrowing $225 million more to send to Israel, without debate and without discussion, in the midst of a war that has cost more than a thousand civilian lives already, too many of them children.” Within hours, O’Rourke was flooded with e-mails, texts, and calls. The next day, the El Paso Times ran a front-page story with the headline “O’ROURKE VOTE DRAWS CRITICISM.” In the story, Stuart Schwartz, who is described as having donated a thousand dollars to O’Rourke’s previous campaign, commented that O’Rourke “chooses to side with the rocket launchers and terror tunnel builders.” A mass e-mail circulated, reading “The Following Is Shameful, El Paso Has an Anti-Israel Congressman. . . . Do Not Reëlect Beto O’Rourke.” At the bottom was the address of AIPAC’s Web site, and a snippet of text: “AIPAC is directly responsible for the overwhelming support this legislation received on the Hill. If you are not a member of AIPAC, I strongly recommend that you join. Every dollar helps fund this important work in Congress.”

The day that Congress passed the Iron Dome bills happened to be an especially deadly one in Gaza. In the city of Rafah, Israeli troops pursued Hamas fighters with such overwhelming force that about a hundred and fifty Palestinians were killed, many of them women and children. Israel’s critics in the region have been energized. Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian legislator, told me that Congress had sent a clear message by funding Iron Dome that day. “Congress was telling Israel, ‘You go ahead and kill, and we will fund it for you.’ ” She argued that Israelis had dominated American political discourse on the war, as they have for decades on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “They say, ‘The Palestinians are all terrorists, they are the people we don’t know, they are alien, foreign, strange—but Israelis are like us.’ Who shaped the presentation, in the U.S.? AIPAC, to a large degree.”

Friday, August 29, 2014

Palestine, American Muslim Leadership & Assimilationist Strategic Math

Director, Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project

Yet another problematic aspect is related to the broader issues coming from the War on Terrorism. The US government’s constant involvement in the Muslim world and Palestine/Israel conflict necessitates a modicum of engagement with American Muslim leadership in such a way to lend support for the administration’s efforts. American Muslim leaders were asked to partner with America’s elite in the soft imperial power project directed at the Muslim world. Even though the soft power is anything but soft with drones used at will and bombing campaigns every so often, Muslim leaders engaged public diplomacy and became America’s soft power faces across the Muslim world and in return the government provided access to grants, resources and status for the participants. Winning the hearts and minds through public diplomacy while bombing campaigns never stopped.

Yet, what is sad and funny is that most if not all American Muslim leaders who travel for the purpose of soft power and public diplomacy are subject to secondary screening upon return, treated like terror suspects and are kept on the government watch list themselves. In this way they are treated like prisoners, which creates a psychological pressure to continue to participate so as to demonstrate they are ‘good’ people having nothing to hide and have no ill-feelings toward America. Thus, when one reads American Muslim organizational statements on Palestine and tracks it with administration language, one finds that the difference is minor because they have accepted the role of being in-bed with Washington and its policies toward the Muslim world.

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