Thursday, October 31, 2013

Don't give divisive lecturer GOP forum

Don't give divisive lecturer Jonathan Matusitz, GOP forum

I am appalled at the Orlando Republican Women's Network's announced plans to host UCF's Jonathan Matusitz's lecture on "The Islamic Threat to America."

The title of the talk alone serves to demonize and alienate an entire minority and is counterproductive to a free, diverse and tolerant community. Nothing good can come out of targeting an entire group based on faith.

Besides being unproductive, asserting that an entire faith is a threat is simply incorrect.
As U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder stated, American Muslims are "essential partners in the fight against terrorism."

Inviting such an offensive speaker, who, according to Pinellas Republican Executive Committee leader Chris Latvala, "bash[es] a religion practiced by many ... including fellow Republicans," can harm the long-term viability of the GOP, and effectively undermine the goals of the network. Similar concerns have been raised by GOP leader Grover Norquist: "When you hear snide comments about Jews in the '50s or Muslims today — we've been through this. The Republican Party chased away the Catholic vote for over a hundred years."

The network certainly has a right to hold events that demonize an entire faith.

But the fact that members choose to do so says more about them and their values, ethnocentrism, and double standards than the faith they are attacking.

Our country needs leaders who unite us, not leaders who use fear to divide us.

Hassan Shibly, Executive Director, CAIR-Florida in Tampa

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

NBC’s Richard Engel misleading take on Muslim violence

By: Zaid Jilani | | October 22, 2013          [Read Original Here]
For conservatives, the hype about “black on black violence” has become a campaign slogan — despite evidence to the contrary that violence is really about concentrated poverty and geography, leading disingenuous conservatives to complain about this phenomenon. “Nationally, nearly half of all murder victims are black. And the overwhelming majority of those black people are killed by other black people. Where is the march for them?” complained Juan Williams last year as protests for slain teenager Trayvon Martin were gearing up.
In a television news segment aired last week, NBC’s decorated foreign correspondent Richard Engel offered a similar take on “Muslim versus Muslim violence.” Like complaining about black on black violence, it seemed calculated to absolve the audience of blame.
Engel is one of America’s most prominent foreign correspondents. He has lived in the Middle East since 1996 and speaks and reads Arabic that he learned from many years living in Cairo. So it’s particularly disappointing to see him engage in a form of Orientalism.
Engel’s segment begins by setting the scene: “Anyone who follows the Middle East and Islamic world in general can’t deny it is often a very violent place, that a band of instability now stretches from Algeria to Pakistan. Every day it seems there are car bombings, suicide attacks, shootings, and refugees and crying children. From the outside it looks like a violent mess to be avoided. But the violence baffles many of the people who live in the region. Why? they ask. Why is the Islamic world these days so violent? And who’s responsible.”
Engel then reminds his viewers that Muslims aren’t predisposed to violence: “Islam, like all major religions, preaches tolerance and coexistence. Most sermons on most mosques on most days preach about living a good and moral life. Very normal stuff.”
Then he gets to his thesis, that Muslims can’t explain all that Muslim-on-Muslim violence and that they shroud themselves in conspiracy theories: “Which leads many in the Islamic world to conclude that there must be a conspiracy. Some war against Islam waged by non-Muslims. This is a very common philosophy in the Islamic world reinforced by television shows and taken as fact at many of the same mosques where people are told to live good and decent lives.”
Engel then concedes that there might be some truth to the idea that Muslims are being killed by non-Muslims: “In just a generation, starting roughly in 1980, about 4 million Muslims have died violently in wars, from Afghanistan to Iraq, Bosnia to Chechnya. Understand, numbers like these are hard to nail down. But the scale makes a point. More than 300 Muslims killed a day, every day, for 30 years. And about half of them, think Afghanistan attacked by the Soviet Union, Bosnia by Serbs, and America’s two wars in Iraq, it was Muslims who were killed by non-Muslims. The worst atrocity in Europe since World War II, the massacre at Srebrenica, and the worst air assault on a city, Grozny, were both directed at Muslims by armies of other faiths. So looking from the inside out, it’s not unreasonable to see a war against Islam.”
Then he pivots to his conclusion: It’s really the Muslims killing each other, and they don’t like to admit it: “But increasingly, the argument doesn’t hold up. Increasingly, it’s been Muslims killing Muslims. In civil wars in Syria, Algeria, Sunni versus Shiite violence seems to be the new terrible trend. And one that is likely to continue as the Arab world struggles to find a new status quo after the revolution of the Arab Spring. It could take a decade for a new system to lock in place. Until then, there’s likely to be a lot more Muslim versus Muslim violence. But this narrative isn’t very popular in the region. It isn’t talked about as much in the mosques and in the Arab media. Perhaps it’s easier to blame the outside than to explain the interfaith violence.”
There are a number of troubling flaws in Engel’s argument. First of all, he seems to posit that the Muslim world is uniquely violent, with 4 million Muslims  killed there over the past 33 years. While the region has indeed seen horrific violence, let’s not forget that it’s a group consisting of over 1.6 billion individuals.
By contrast, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where 95 percent of the population is Christian, the International Rescue Committee estimated that 5.4 million people died in conflict in eastern Congo from 1998 to 2007 out of a current population of 65.7 million people.
There are also parts of the Muslim world that have relatively little violence. For example, much of the Middle East has lower homicide rates than the U.S.
Then Engel concedes that half of the violence he was referring to came from outside the Muslim world. He then quickly moves on. Think about that. In 2001, 2,750 Americans were killed by Muslim terrorists. The same year, 15,980 Americans were killed by … each other in homicides. If you polled most Americans that year about what they were most outraged about, it’s very likely that the terrorist attacks would rank higher than common murder, even though the murders accounted for almost six times as many deaths. Would Engel really take Americans to task for uniting against a foreign enemy – the al-Qaida organization – rather than the violence from within? Every society, not just Muslim ones, are quicker to rally against a foreign enemy.
That brings us to the last flaw in Engel’s argument. He claims that Muslims and Arabs are not focusing on violence by other Muslims, and that they’d rather blame foreigners, in the press and in their mosques. But is that even true?
I took a couple of snapshots of the current home page of, the Web presence of Pakistan’s most influential newspaper. The home page features items on a girls’ school receiving a threatening letter from an offshoot of the Pakistani Taliban, an article on a bomb attack on a train in Balochistan, a piece on Pakistan’s female police officers taking on criminals and terrorist militants, among others related to “Muslim versus Muslim violence.”
did the same for the Khaleej Times, a major news outlet based out of the United Arab Emirates. As I write this, there are three articles about Syria’s civil war and one article about Malala, the famed Pakistani teenage girl who stood up to the Taliban.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t certain individuals that peddle conspiracies and try to blame the West for all of the Muslim world’s problems. But they aren’t too different from our own Glenn Beck, Michele Bachmann and Rush Limbaugh – they’re providing red meat to a small but fervent audience that rejects rational discussion.
Engel’s portrayal of “Muslim versus Muslim violence” is simplistic. The issues and animosities that have created sectarian warfare in some parts of the Muslim world are nuanced, and many of them can at least partially be blamed on the West: See Syria where the civil war has turned into a proxy conflict between the American and Russian governments, which are both fueling the bloodshed with arms.
Yet a greater problem may be Engel’s role as a narrator himself. Like white conservatives who scold the black community for violence, Engel is playing the role of a white Western outsider, lecturing Muslims on their inability to govern themselves. Yes, there is bitter sectarian violence in some parts of the Muslim world, but addressing that is primarily a job for Muslim activists and the Muslim public sphere. A white non-Muslim lecturing Muslims on American television will hardly help soothe sectarian divisions, and it may even exacerbate them.
Perhaps a better use for Engel’s reporting talent would be to inform Americans about the nuances of conflicts in the Middle East and Muslim world, and to give them the information they need to change what’s most directly under their control: U.S. foreign policy. Engel could explain how the United States’ one-sided policies with respect to Israel and the Palestinians prevent a resolution, or how our extreme sanctions against Iran are hurting ordinary people there, not government officials – a former U.S. ambassador recently warned that it could “become a humanitarian disaster in five years.”
A reporter of Engel’s background and talent should consider these alternatives and others rather than championing a simplistic and condescending narrative toward 1.6 billion people.

American Muslims Condemn Terrorism

While the Muslim community does not need to collectively take responsibility for violence done by a few of its members, just as no community is responsible for the crimes of the few, it certainly would behoove American Muslim leadership to engage and educate the public that in fact Islam has no room for such atrocities that some may commit in its name.

Despite doing so however, many politicians, ill-informed activists, and self-appointed 'terrorism experts' still claim that they “have never heard a Muslim condemn terrorism.” That is probably most likely because they have never gotten to know a Muslim, or simply because they are not listening to those moderate Muslim voices.

To set the record straight however, I have written this blog post to cite a few of the many references of American Muslim leadership condemning terrorism.

It is important to note however that statistically speaking, only a minority of terrorist or violent attacks in the world are committed by those who claim affiliation with the Muslim faith and that people of other faiths are nonetheless not similarly expected to be accountable for the crimes committed by members of their faith.

Nonetheless, we have a whole section on condemning terrorism on our website where we include many blogs and media appearances where the community condemns violence:

Here is the link to an editorial I published in the Tampa Bay Times “Islam has no room for terrorism” 

Here is me in a Fox News video about the Muslim Community reporting an alleged terrorist to law enforcement and us condemning terrorism.

I am on Fox News here as well clearly condemning violence.

Another Fox News video where I am condemning violence on behalf of the community.

Below is a list of articles and resources debunking the myth that Muslims do not condemn terrorisim:
·               marathon
·                         denounce-the-woolwich-attack/

Here are a few excellent academic resources that put the threat of terrorism in perspective:

·         Duke/UNC study that American Muslim terrorism is on the decline:
·         “The Terrorism Delusion is another university study on fear being overblown:
·         Professor Jaun Cole’s recent article “Terrorism and Other Religions”
·         Professor Robert Pape’s study that terrorists are not motivated by religion:

It is interesting to note that there are greater chances of drowning in your bathtub than getting killed by a terrorist, and the amount of people killed by terrorism in the US is extremely small compared to those killed by other violent crime:

According to the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security:

• Fourteen Muslim-Americans were indicted for violent terrorist plots in 2012, down from 21 the year before, bringing the total since 9/11 to 209, or just under 20 per year.
• The number of plots also dropped from 18 in 2011 to 9 in 2012.
• Meanwhile, the United States suffered approximately 14,000 murders in 2012.
• Since 9/11, Muslim-American terrorism has claimed 33 lives in the United States, out of more than 180,000 murders committed in the United States during this period.
• Over the same period, more than 200 Americans have been killed in political violence by white supremacists and other groups on the far right, according to a recent study published by the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy.
• Sixty-six Americans were killed in mass shootings by non-Muslims in 2012 alone, twice as many fatalities as from Muslim-American terrorism in all 11 years since 9/11.

We must stand united as Americans for security and liberty and condemn all those who wish to promote hatred, division, or violence.

Clearly, the myth that American Muslims do not condemn terrorism is clearly false.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Shariah 101: What is it and why do states want to ban it?

By: | The State | July 25, 2013    [Original Article]
 North Carolina lawmakers July 24 approved a bill to prohibit judges from considering “foreign laws” in their decisions, but nearly everyone agrees that “foreign laws” really means Shariah, or Islamic law.
North Carolina now joins six other states — Oklahoma, Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, South Dakota, and Tennessee — to pass a “foreign laws” bill. A similar bill passed in Missouri, but Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed it, citing threats to international adoptions.
The bills all cite “foreign laws” because two federal courts have ruled that singling out Shariah — as Oklahoma voters originally did in 2010 — is unconstitutional.
So what’s the big deal with Shariah?
Many Americans think of Shariah as an Islamic legal system characterized by misogyny, intolerance, and harsh punishments. Some anti-Islamic activists warn that Muslims are trying to sneak Shariah into the American legal system in ways that do not reflect U.S. legal principles or beliefs.
Many Muslim Americans counter that Shariah is essential to belief, and that any harsh punishments or unconstitutional aspects associated with Islamic law have either been exaggerated, abrogated or are superseded by American law.
Muslims around the world have varying views about what Shariah entails, and its role in personal and public life. So what exactly is Shariah? Here are five facts that might help make sense of this complex and often misunderstood term.
1. What is Shariah?
Shariah is an Arabic word that literally means a path to be followed, and also commonly refers to a path to water. The term is broad, encompassing both a personal moral code and religious law.
There are two sources of Shariah: The Quran, which many Muslims consider to be the literal word of God; and the “Sunnah,” the divinely guided tradition of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.
The interpretation of Shariah is called “fiqh,” or Islamic jurisprudence. Because fiqh is man-made, it can be changed; Shariah, for many Muslims, is divine and cannot be changed.
Some Muslims use the term Shariah to apply to both the injunctions in the Quran and Sunnah, and the interpretation of the Quran and Sunnah. Islamic law consists of Shariah and fiqh.
2. What does Shariah cover?
While often thought of as a legal system, Shariah covers personal and collective spheres of daily life, and has three components – belief, character, and actions. Only a small portion of the “action” component relates to law. In fact, only about 80 of the Quran’s 6,236 verses are about specific legal injunctions.
— The “belief” component of Shariah commands Muslims to believe in God, the angels, prophets, revelation, and other metaphysical and physical aspects of the faith.
— In terms of “character,” Shariah commands Muslims to strive for traits like humility and kindness, and to avoid traits such as lying and pride.
— “Actions” include those relating to God, such as prayer, fasting, and pilgrimage, as well as actions relating to other humans, such as marriage, crime, and business.
Some actions relating to other humans can be regulated by the state, while actions relating to God (as well as belief and character) are between an individual and God. Nevertheless, some Muslim-majority countries have criminalized violations of the belief, character, and action components of Shariah.
3. Who is qualified to issue rulings on Shariah?
Shariah was systematized between the eighth and 10th centuries, some 200 to 300 years after Muhammad received his first revelation. Many people believe that, by the end of the 10th century, the core components of Shariah had been exhaustively debated. That said, changes in Islamic society force scholars to look at Shariah anew, with new interpretations expressed in fatwas (religious edicts) and legal opinions.
Interpreting Shariah is done by jurists known as “fuqahaa” who look at the practicality of both time and place regarding how a ruling can be applied. In places where Shariah has official status, it is interpreted by judges known as “qadis.” Fiqh interpretations divide human behavior into five categories: obligatory, recommended, neutral, discouraged, and forbidden.
Over the centuries, Islamic legal analyses and opinions were compiled in books that judges used in deciding cases. Secular courts and Shariah courts coexisted in Islamic lands, with the Shariah courts often taking responsibility for family law matters. With the arrival of European colonization, many of these legal opinions were codified into civil law.
4. Where is Shariah the law of the land?
Professor Jan Michiel Otto of the Leiden University Law School in the Netherlands divides legal systems of Muslim countries into three categories: classical Shariah systems, secular systems, and mixed systems.
In countries with classical Shariah systems, Shariah has official status or a high degree of influence on the legal system, and covers family law, criminal law, and in some places, personal beliefs, including penalties for apostasy, blasphemy, and not praying. These countries include Egypt, Mauritania, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, the Maldives, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and certain regions in Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, and the United Arab Emirates.
Mixed systems are the most common in Muslim-majority countries. Generally speaking, Shariah covers family law, while secular courts will cover everything else. Countries include: Algeria, Comoros, Djibouti, Gambia, Libya, Morocco, Somalia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Oman, and Syria.
In several Muslim-majority countries, Shariah plays no role: Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Tunisia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Albania, Kosovo, and Turkey.
Some countries have Islamic family law courts available for their Muslim minorities: Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, India, Israel, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and the United Kingdom.
In the United States, there are no Islamic courts, but judges sometimes have to consider Islamic law in their decisions. For example, a judge may have to recognize the validity of an Islamic marriage contract from a Muslim country in order to grant a divorce in America.
Some Islamic scholars argue that true Islamic belief cannot be coerced by the state, and therefore belief in Shariah should only come from the individual and not be codified by the state.
5. Does Shariah really prescribe harsh punishments like stoning adulterers?
Yes, but many of these punishments have been taken out of context, abrogated, or require a near-impossible level of evidence to be carried out. For someone to be convicted of adultery, for example, there must be four witnesses to the act, which is rare. The Quran also prescribes amputating the hands of thieves, but (and this is often forgotten or unmentioned) not if the thief has repented.
Other Shariah scholars say such a punishment system can only be instituted in a society of high moral standards and where everyone’s needs are met (thereby obviating the urge to steal or commit other crimes). In such a society, the thinking goes, corporal punishments would be rarely needed.
That said, corporal punishments have been used by Islamic militant groups in places like Afghanistan, Somalia, and Syria, and governments in Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Aceh state in Indonesia and elsewhere.

Read more here:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Ahmad Ali Could Be Trayvon Martin

By: Dawud Walid | | March 22, 2012   [Original Article]

There is a national discussion going on regarding the tragic murder of Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old Black American honor roll student, by 28 year old triggerman George Zimmerman regarding the role of race and demonization and how much rights private citizens have or don’t have in using deadly force for public safety purposes.

Zimmerman, who has a track record of calling the police regarding “suspicious” (meaning Black) males traveling through his neighborhood, pursued Martin for looking “suspicious” (Black wearing a hoodie) and shot him due to him carrying the very dangerous weapon of Skittles.  Ironically, Zimmerman was arrested in 2005 for resisting arrest and committing battery against a law enforcement officer. Now, he has taken on the role of playing a keystone cop in following and questioning “suspicious” looking people.

To be frank, I was appalled when I heard about this murder, but I was not shocked at all.  As a Black male, who was raised in the South, my parents and grandparents warned me, as so many Black boys continued to be warned, that when traveling in certain areas on foot or driving through certain areas, to be extra cautious.  “Don’t walk with your hands in your coat pockets… Don’t be too loud… Don’t argue with White men that provoke confrontation… Don’t look at officers in their eyes too long… Don’t make sudden moves when pulled over by police and keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times…”  There is a long history in America of fatal shootings of Black males based upon racial animus.

At the heart of the discussion regarding the shooting of Martin is the question of how can we curtail the tendency of many to demonize or other-ize people due to bigotry, or as a mechanism, driven by insecurities, of uplifting one’s self over others. Black men have been subjected to such demonization since the days of slavery with overseers, then from officers and “concerned citizens” like the White Citizens Council in post-Reconstruction America.  Now, there are armed militias in the southern border states, who do the same with Latinos under the guise that they are watching for criminals crossing the border, as if the majority of Latinos in those states aren’t documented and don’t abide by the law when in fact this is not the case.

Zimmerman saying that Martin looked “suspicious,” which prompted him to start a confrontation, had me thinking about how young, brown Muslim males are currently seen by many in America as suspicious, just like young Black males, be they Christian or Muslim.  Would Zimmerman have acted the same way if he saw a young Arab-American honor roll student named Ahmad Ali walking down the street wearing a white robe, or if he saw a South Asian class president named Muhammad Hussein walking down the street wearing jeans and a hoodie?  I can’t say for certain that the outcome would have been the same, but the mentality of people like Zimmerman would prompt the same suspicion.

I hope that through Martin’s tragic death, we can have more conversations about getting to know each other, and decrease the tendency of other-izing each other as Americans.  The stakes are too high if we do not.  Just ask Trayvon Martin’s parents.

Link Between Islam And Violence Rejected By Many Americans After Boston Bombings: Pew Survey

 By: Jaweed Kaleem | The Huffington Post | July 5, 2013  [Original Article]

Islam Violence MuslimsAfter the Boston Marathon bombing suspects were revealed to be Muslims who investigators said were motivated in part by radical Islam, American Muslims were quick to condemn the bombings and plea for Americans to not retaliate against the peaceful majority.
Now, the results of a new survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press show that despite heightened interest around radical Islam's connection to the Boston attacks, Americans' view of whether Islam is more likely than other religions to support violence remains close to what it has been for the past decade. The survey also found that Americans view Muslims as the group that's most discriminated against when compared to gays and lesbians, African Americans, Hispanics and women.

The survey, which was released Tuesday, found that 42 percent of Americans believe Islam is "more likely" than other religions to encourage violence among believers, while 46 percent say it's not any more likely to promote violence than other faiths. Those figures are within 7 percentage points of the results of surveys going back to 2003 that have asked the same question. Only in 2002 did Pew find widely different results to the question about Islam and violence, when 25 percent of those surveyed said Islam was more likely to encourage violence while 51 percent disagreed.

Tuesday's results found that about 45 percent of Americans say there is "a lot" of discrimination against Muslims, while 39 percent say there is the same amount of discrimination against gays and lesbians. A quarter of Americans believe there is "a lot" of discrimination against Hispanics, 22 percent believe there is a similar level of discrimination against African Americans and 15 percent believe there is "a lot" of discrimination against women.

Pew, which polled 1,504 people for the survey with a margin of error of 2.9 percent, also found differences between views of Islam when results were broken down by age, sex, political party and religion. The majority of young people don't believe Islam is more linked to violence than other religions, while half of people above 50 believe Islam is more likely to promote violence. Men were also more likely than women to say Islam is related to violence. Republicans were also more likely to believe in a link between Islam and violence than Democrats, as were white evangelical Protestants when compared to mainline Protestants.


Malala Yousafzai and the White Savior Complex

This is a story of a native girl being saved by the white man. Flown to the UK, the Western world can feel good about itself as they save the native woman from the savage men of her home nation. It is a historic racist narrative that has been institutionalised. Journalists and politicians were falling over themselves to report and comment on the case. The story of an innocent brown child that was shot by savages for demanding an education and along comes the knight in shining armour to save her.

The actions of the West, the bombings, the occupations the wars all seem justified now, "see, we told you, this is why we intervene to save the natives."

The truth is that there are hundreds and thousands of other Malalas. They come from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other places in the world. Many are victims of the West, but we conveniently forget about those as Western journalists and politicians fall over themselves to appease their white-middle class guilt also known as the white man's burden….

…Historically the West has always used women to justify the actions of war mongering men. It is in the imagery, it is in art, in education, it is even prevalent in Western human rights organisations, Amnesty International's poster campaign coinciding with the NATO summit in New York encouraged NATO to 'keep the progress going!' in Afghanistan….

The Western savior complex has hijacked Malala's message. The West has killed more girls than the Taliban have. The West has denied more girls an education via their missiles than the Taliban has by their bullets. The West has done more against education around the world than extremists could ever dream of. So, please, spare us the self-righteous and self-congratulatory message that is nothing more than propaganda that tells us that the West drops bombs to save girls like Malala.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Tony Blair misreads Muslim terrorism

By: Professor John Esposito | Washington Post | June 5, 2013  [Original Article]
In the wake of the Woolwich attacks,Tony Blair’s recent article in the Daily Mail, titles “The ideology behind Lee Rigby’s murder is profound and dangerous. Why don’t we admit it?: Tony Blair launches a brave assault on Muslim extremism after Woolwich attack,” ignores the facts on the ground and opts for a common (ideological) thread: “There is a problem within Islam – from the adherents of an ideology that is a strain within Islam. And we have to put it on the table and be honest about it….It has at its heart a view about religion and about the interaction between religion and politics that is not compatible with pluralistic, liberal, open-minded societies.”
This photo released by the FBI shows who the FBI was calling Suspect No. 1, in black cap, and Suspect No. 2, in white cap, walking through the crowd in Boston on April 15 before the explosions at the Boston Marathon.  Though well intentioned, it perpetuates his long held belief since the Bush-Blair invasion and occupation of Iraq that the primary driver, the root cause of terrorism, is religion and not political and social contexts and foreign policies. It is wrong headed and doomed to continue to be part of the problem not the solution.
A similar flawed narrative can be seen in statements by other political leaders and media commentators such as London mayor, Boris Johnson’s article “By standing united, we can isolate the virus of Islamism” in the Daily Telegraph. The monolithic use of the term Islamism fails to distinguish between mainstream and violent extremist Islamists. Each are individuals or organizations that appeal to the religion of Islam but extremists, like their Christian and Jewish counterparts, are more often driven by political, economic or social issues and grievances, such as military intervention, invasion and/or occupation of land by foreign forces. They misinterpret or twist the religious beliefs of the mainstream majority to legitimate their hate speech, use of violence and terrorist attacks. Major polls (Gallup, Pew, Zogby and others) have long documented that widespread anti-Americanism or anti-European Muslim attitudes are driven by foreign policies. But that there is a distinct difference between the mainstream majority, who remain non-violent and admire and desire (Western) economic and technological accomplishments as well as the rule of law and freedoms and a minority of extremists who resort to violence and terrorism.In the wake of the Woolwich attacks,Tony Blair’s recent article in the Daily Mail, titles “The ideology behind Lee Rigby’s murder is profound and dangerous. Why don’t we admit it?: Tony Blair launches a brave assault on Muslim extremism after Woolwich attack,” ignores the facts on the ground and opts for a common (ideological) thread: “There is a problem within Islam – from the adherents of an ideology that is a strain within Islam. And we have to put it on the table and be honest about it….It has at its heart a view about religion and about the interaction between religion and politics that is not compatible with pluralistic, liberal, open-minded societies.”
Though well intentioned, it perpetuates his long held belief since the Bush-Blair invasion and occupation of Iraq that the primary driver, the root cause of terrorism, is religion and not political and social contexts and foreign policies. It is wrong headed and doomed to continue to be part of the problem not the solution.
A similar flawed narrative can be seen in statements by other political leaders and media commentators such as London mayor, Boris Johnson’s article “By standing united, we can isolate the virus of Islamism” in the Daily Telegraph. The monolithic use of the term Islamism fails to distinguish between mainstream and violent extremist Islamists. Each are individuals or organizations that appeal to the religion of Islam but extremists, like their Christian and Jewish counterparts, are more often driven by political, economic or social issues and grievances, such as military intervention, invasion and/or occupation of land by foreign forces. They misinterpret or twist the religious beliefs of the mainstream majority to legitimate their hate speech, use of violence and terrorist attacks. Major polls (Gallup, Pew, Zogby and others) have long documented that widespread anti-Americanism or anti-European Muslim attitudes are driven by foreign policies. But that there is a distinct difference between the mainstream majority, who remain non-violent and admire and desire (Western) economic and technological accomplishments as well as the rule of law and freedoms and a minority of extremists who resort to violence and terrorism.

[Read full article here]

Hassan Shibly on CNN to Discuss Call for Probe of FBI Shooting of Unarmed Muslim

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Muslims to Tea Party: Welcome to our world

By: Sahar Aziz | | May 15 2013 | [Original Article]

Reports that the Internal revenue Service has been targeting Tea Party-affiliated nonprofit organizations has grabbed headlines, but should come as no surprise. In part because of ten years of expanding government powers, much of it under the guise of national security, selective enforcement of the law has increasingly become a norm rather than an aberration.
But some in the Muslim community might have a question – why are conservatives so surprised (and outraged) by this news when Muslim nonprofits and their leaders have been under intense scrutiny for over a decade? And when so many Muslim groups and individuals have faced scrutiny simply for the religion they follow?
Within months after 9/11, the U.S. government shut down the three largest Muslim American charities as part of a broader scorched earth strategy that sent a chill across American Muslim communities nationwide. Their boards of directors were arrested and many were prosecuted on pretextual violations of immigration or tax laws. None of the charities had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks, al Qaeda, or the Taliban. That they were Islamic charities was all the government needed to seal their fate before a suspicious and traumatized American public.
Since then, new Muslim charitable organizations have faced heightened scrutiny from the IRS, with applications for many seeking nonprofit status taking years to process. My experience representing some of these organizations, and the anecdotes I hear from other attorneys in the same boat, have turned up example after example of selective targeting.
Even when organizations are able to make progress with their applications, they find themselves asked to provide additional information to the IRS, and are left with no choice but to patiently comply. Their files are often referred to the national office for further processing and in-depth national security checks on every board member. Upon expressing surprise at the unusual length of time and scrutiny, I was informed this was standard procedure after 9/11 for Muslim charities. In stark contrast to the average six to nine months application process other groups face, some Muslim nonprofit organizations have typically waited for two or more years.
People are rightly concerned by allegations that the IRS applied its powers in a discriminatory fashion. This is not how the federal government is supposed to work. Yet while some may see the case of Muslim organizations and Tea Party affiliated groups as different, the same principles are involved – the uneven application of the law and discriminatory treatment directed at a minority. In one case the minority is targeted for its faith, while in another they are targeted for their politics.
But something I find troubling is that for the largely white, conservative, anti-government Tea Partiers and their supporters it is apparently acceptable to target legal immigrants or first generation American Muslims in the name of national security, even as any singling out based on political affiliation is treated as an outrage.
Still, despite the vastly different public responses, the targeting of these seemingly unrelated groups is predictable. Why? Because once selective targeting is normalized, it is only a matter of time before such practices have an impact on other minorities and eventually political dissidents.
We saw this with the targeted surveillance used for Muslims that was also eventually applied to the surveillance of right wing groups as outlined in a U.S. Department of Homeland Security report in 2009. We also saw this when the Department of Justice inspector general reported that the FBI had been improperly spying on left wing political groups in 2006. And we witnessed the expansion of government surveillance of the nonviolent Occupy Wall Street movement, which was spied on by the joint terrorism task forces also used to spy on American Muslims.
These troubling trends mirror the alleged methods in the FBI's COINTELPRO program targeting black nationalists, communists, and anti-war groups particularly in the 1960s and 70s. It was only after white male veterans and college students were targeted that the public finally pushed back on government excesses, leading to passage of government accountability and oversight measures that were in turn reversed after 9/11.
While selective enforcement of any group based on discrimination or political ideology is anathema to a democracy, the IRS’s alleged targeting should at least trigger a long overdue national conversation on government overreach. That is one debate that impacts all Americans, whatever their race, religion or political persuasions.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Hassan Shibly: CAIR's Position on Terry Jones (the Qu'ran burning pastor who's moving to Tampa)

"Be tolerant and forgiving, command what is right and pay no attention to foolish people." ~Translation of the Holy Quran 7:199
"The servants of the Lord of Mercy are those who walk humbly on the earth, and who, when the foolish address them, reply, ‘Peace’" ~ Translation of the Holy Quran 25:63
God commands Muslims to turn away from those that insist on ignorance; He commands us to reply to words of hate and foolishness with words of peace.
Where else can such beautiful advice apply, than to the likes and actions of people like Terry Jones, who soon plans to move to Tampa and is seeking headlines by threatening to burn thousands of copies of the Holy Quran. 
The reality is that the best response to people like Jones is simply to ignore him.  However, some in the media have insisted on giving him attention. Therefore, the purpose of this post is to clarify once and for all our position on people like Jones and share general advice on how to respond to such ignorance and hatred.
People like him are not worth our time, and are simply ignorant seekers of attention. 
They do not reflect the beautiful teachings of Jesus (Peace be Upon Him) who taught loving thy neighbor. Nor do they reflect American values which teach freedom of religion and respecting diversity.
They often view the world through a hypocritical double standard. They show simple mindedness by conveniently blaming an entire faith for the criminal acts of a few when the faith is alien to them. To them, if a Muslim does something bad, they blame Islam. Yet ironically, they do not blame their own faith for the inquisition, the witch-hunts, the enslavement of Africa, the killing of millions of Native Americans, the bombing of abortion clinics,the shootings of Sikhs, the burning down of mosques, the mass shootings by white supremacists, and so on. 
They demonize an entire faith and people because of the acts of a few, but ignore the fact that many more people have been killed by members of their own faith; that most terrorists have no association with any religion; that even then such terrorists are motivated by political grievances, not religion; and that the threat of terrorism from any particular community is extremely over-hyped.
I mention these points to make it clear, it is simple mindedness, ignorant, and hypocritical to blame an entire group of people for the acts of a few. There are good and bad people among us all and all faiths have been hijacked to advance political agendas and commit heinous crimes. 
The likes of Jones are no different than so-called Muslim extremists, who claim that Islam and America are incompatible. 
Their actions show nothing but insecurity about their own beliefs and are reminiscent of the book burning of the dark ages when thousands of books science, religion, and philosophy were burnt by a church that felt insecure by the thoughts and ideas contained in the books.
While they can burn books, they cannot extinguish the light that such books produce in the heart of humanity. In fact, the fires they burn only increases the light, as the more attention they bring to Islam, the more people study it on their own and see the beauty of the faith for themselves. So the more awareness and attention they bring Islam, the better.
The hatred and intolerance the likes of Jones promote only serves to bring together the moderates in the community, and the American people as a whole have rejected his hateful message. 
If anything, his actions are unproductive and just causes more pollution in our beautiful Florida environment. Can you imagine the carbon footprint the burning of 3,000 books will unnecessarily cause?
There is concern that their hateful speech actually sometimes incites violence against minorities. In the past year many Sikh and people perceived to be Muslim have been shot or killed by people who follow Jones' type of intolerance, several mosques have been burnt down, and in 2011 Anders Breivik, a Christian white supremacist killed dozens of children citing Islamophobes to justify his violence. 
Thus the best reaction to ignorant individuals preaching hatred to seek attention is simply to ignore them, and make them irrelevant. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Return of the Anti-Muslim Bigots

BY:  I I May 10, 2013 I [Original Article]

“These are not the droids you’re looking for.” One reason that Obi Wan Kenobi quote is so well known and so often invoked with a wink is because it succinctly captures American politics’ most favorite bait and switch: the tactic whereby partisans deny the existence of a phenomenon that’s there for everyone to see, all so that the phenomenon can continue unabated. This “Star Wars”-ism, indeed, is a perfect way to understand the way Islamophobia works in America, and not because of Tatooine’s Arabian aesthetic (it was filmed in Tunisia), but because the way so many seem intent on pretending anti-Muslim sentiment doesn’t exist, all to make sure it continues to flourish.
The aftermath of 9/11 is, of course, the best example. In the years following the attack, conservatives from Rush Limbaugh to Commentary magazine’s Jonathan Tobin have insisted with straight faces that there was never any evidence that many Americans blamed all Muslims for the act of a small group of terrorists. Willfully ignored in such analyses was the fact that after 9/11 violent anti-Muslim hate crimes increased by 1,600 percent; Muslim communities have been subjected to mass surveillance in New York (even though, as CUNY’s Diala Shamasnotes, “the NYPD still cannot point to a single lead or prosecution that has resulted from this strategy”); mosques have been targeted for attack; polls documented a spike in open prejudice against Muslims (including one showing almost half of the country supportive of curtailing the constitutional rights of Muslim citizens); and Muslims now face a disproportionately high rates of job discrimination. Meanwhile, after 9/11, conservative media outlets became megaphones for Islamophobic rhetoric.

Now, unfortunately, the same thing is playing out after the Boston bombing.
 Limbaugh has insisted that innocent Muslims “will be in no way associated with” the attack and pundits like the Telegraph’s Brendan O’Neill claim that anti-Muslim bigotry is just “a figment of liberals’ imaginations.” Yet, here is but a taste of what’s happened in just the three weeks since the Boston attack:
- The Boston Globe reports that a Palestinian woman walking with her baby daughter was assaulted in the Boston suburb of Malden by an assailant blaming her for the bombing.
- The New York Post reports that a Bangladeshi man was beaten nearly unconscious by New Yorkers as retribution for the Boston bombing.
- The Washington Post reports that a Muslim cab driver, who was also a U.S. Army reservist Iraq War veteran, was assaulted by a passenger who “compared him to the men accused of carrying out the Boston Marathon.”
U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, called for Muslims to be subjected to more intensive mass surveillance.
Former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., appeared on national television to declare that America’s “enemy” are all “young Muslim men.”
- Abraham Foxman, the head of the Anti-Defamation League (an organization whose mission is to combat rather than foment bigotry), publicly justified proposals for mass surveillance of all Muslims.
- On national television, Fox News host Brian Kilmeade called for installing listening devices in mosques.
Ann Coulter appeared on syndicated radio to declare that all mosques be put under police surveillance.
- On national television, Fox News host Bob Beckel not only called for barring Muslim students from visiting the United States, but also said that young Muslims already in America on visas “should be sent back home or sent to prison.”
Conservative comedian Erik Rush said the Boston bombing proves Muslims “are evil — let’s kill them all.”
As evidenced by the pattern after the Boston bombing — and by how the pattern follows pre-Boston bombing trends — these are not isolated incidents. On the contrary, they are part of an unsurprising pattern. As conservative media outlets at once pretend there is no Islamophobia in America but then use the horrible actions of a handful of Muslim extremists as an excuse to vilify all Muslims, Islamophobic bigotry and the threat of hate crimes follow. It is as predictable as it is lamentable.
To know that this is specifically Islamophobia and not just generalized anger following an inexcusable act of violence, just remember that, as Tim Wise notes, America saw no similar rhetorical or physical assaults targeted at specific demographic groups after the violence of:
Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols and Ted Kaczynski and Eric Rudolph and Joe Stack andGeorge Metesky and Byron De La Beckwith and Bobby Frank Cherry and Thomas Blanton and Herman Frank Cash and Robert Chambliss and James von Brunn and Lawrence Michael Lombardi and Robert Mathews and David Lane and Chevie Kehoe and Michael F. Griffinand Paul Hill and John Salvi and Justin Carl Moose and Bruce and Joshua Turnidge andJames Kopp and Luke Helder and James David Adkisson and Scott Roeder and Shelley Shannon and Dennis Mahon and Wade Michael Page and Jeffery Harbin and Byron Williamsand Charles Ray Polk and Willie Ray Lampley and Cecilia Lampley and John Dare Baird and Joseph Martin Bailie and Ray Hamblin and Robert Edward Starr III and William James McCranie Jr. and John Pitner and Charles Barbee and Robert Berry and Jay Merrell andBrendon Blasz and Carl Jay Waskom Jr. and Shawn and Catherine Adams and Edward Taylor Jr. and Todd Vanbiber and William Robert Goehler and James Cleaver and Jack Dowell and Bradley Playford Glover and Ken Carter and Randy Graham and Bradford Metcalf and Chris Scott Gilliam and Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder and Buford Furrow and Benjamin Smith and Donald Rudolph and Kevin Ray Patterson and Charles Dennis Kiles and Donald Beauregard and Troy Diver and Mark Wayne McCool and Leo Felton and Erica Chase and Clayton Lee Wagner and Michael Edward Smith and David Burgert and Robert Barefoot Jr. and Sean Gillespie and Ivan Duane Braden and Kevin Harpham and William Krar and Judith Bruey and Edward Feltus and Raymond Kirk Dillard and Adam Lynn Cunningham and Bonnell Hughes and Randall Garrett Cole and James Ray McElroy andMichael Gorbey and Daniel Cowart and Paul Schlesselman and Frederick Thomas and Paul Ross Evans and Matt Goldsby and Jimmy Simmons and Kathy Simmons and Kaye Wigginsand Patricia Hughes and Jeremy Dunahoe and David McMenemy and Bobby Joe Rogers andFrancis Grady and Cody Seth Crawford and Ralph Lang and Demetrius Van Crocker andFloyd Raymond Looker and Derek Mathew Shrout and Randolph Linn.
Noting the disparity in how we react to different acts of terrorism is not to argue that other demographic groups should be treated the way American Muslims are too often treated. Quite the opposite, in fact; it is to argue that there are unfortunately violent extremists who hail from most demographic groups, and we should focus our anti-terrorism actions intensely on those individuals. However, we shouldn't blame whole groups of innocent people for the acts of those individuals.
That ideal is the kind of principle our country may not always live up to, but that we do at least conceptually value to the point of teaching it to kids in kindergarten. Indeed, it’s hard to be publicly against the notion of not blaming groups for the actions of individuals because the principle is basically a version of the Golden Rule — that is, it is how everyone wants to be treated in their own lives. Thus, why we so often hear conservatives’ laughable “not the droids you’re looking for” denials from Limbaugh et al. about anti-Muslim bigotry, all while they turn around and stoke such bigotry.
Why the bait and switch? More specifically, why are conservative media outlets and politicians obsessed with stoking anti-Muslim animus? That’s a  subject for a whole other article (or, better yet, book) involving everything from the right’s notions of a religious war to neoconservative ideas about foreign policy to just straight up bigotry. But there’s also undoubtedly a shrewd political calculation at work.
Right now, the Republican Party is tearing apart at the seams. Simply put, for various (obvious) reasons, the GOP’s unholy alliance of super-wealthy country clubbers and working-class cultural conservatives is now fraying. Ratings-hungry conservative media outlets and desperate politicians are therefore grasping for any issue or cause that unifies the conservative audience across increasingly wide economic, cultural and class lines. According to polling data, Islamophobia is sadly one of the few things that can achieve that among Republicans. So it has become a central organizing principle on the right.
Conservative leaders cannot openly admit to that political calculation, of course. Thus, the “these are not the droids you’re looking for” denials. But that’s clearly what’s at work, and if it isn’t routinely called out, it will continue, and probably get worse.