Transportation secretary meets with American Muslims
Representatives of the American Muslim and Arab-American community met today with Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta to discuss a variety of issues related to airline safety and
security, including that of racial, ethnic and religious profiling of passengers.
Muslim and Arab groups represented at the two-hour meeting included the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and the Islamic Institute.
Representatives from the Japanese-American and Sikh communities also attended today's meeting.
CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad made a presentation to Secretary Mineta outlining the more than 90 cases of airline passenger profiling that have been reported to that group's civil rights department. (These reports included incidents in which pregnant women were poked to check their pregnancies.) Awad suggested the creation of a civil rights advisory panel for airline security along with sensitivity training for security personnel.
CAIR has received more than 900 reports of anti-Muslim incidents, ranging from verbal harassment to murder, since the terrorist attacks of September 11. Many of these incidents have involved those who, like Sikhs and Christian Arabs, who are perceived to be Muslims or "Middle Eastern-looking."
"Passenger profiling should be rejected not only because it violates American values of equality and justice, but because it also creates a false sense of security for the traveling public," said CAIR Board Chairman
"It is important that we improve airport safety by increasing the level of training and professionalism for those who screen passengers and by applying heightened security measures to all travelers, not just to those who fit a stereotypical image of what a terrorist should look like," said Ahmad.
Muslim Fast of Ramadan Begins November 17
On November 17, 2001, the Muslim community in America and around the world will begin the month-long fast of Ramadan (rom-a-don). Ramadan is the month on the Islamic lunar calendar during which Muslims abstain from food, drink and other sensual pleasures from break of dawn to sunset.
The fast is performed to learn discipline, self-restraint and generosity, while obeying God's commandments. Fasting (along with the declaration of faith, daily prayers, charity, and pilgrimage to Mecca) is one of the "five pillars" of Islam. Because Ramadan is a lunar month, it begins about eleven days earlier each year. The end of Ramadan will be marked by communal prayers called "Eid ul-Fitr," or Feast of the Fast-Breaking, on December 16, 2001.*
"During this time of crisis, the fast of Ramadan offers people of all faiths an opportunity to learn more about Islam and about the Islamic community in America," said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Washington-based Islamic advocacy group.
The Quran, Islam's revealed text, states:
"O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint…Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Quran, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting … " (Chapter 2, verses 183 and 185)
Demographers say Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in this country and around the world. There are an estimated 7 million Muslims in America and some 1.2 billion worldwide.
Jewish groups "Phony Fatwa" slammed as publicity stunt
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today condemned a prominent Jewish organization for promoting what it called a "phony fatwa" to boost sales of a new book on Islam for Jews.
The Washington-based Islamic advocacy group says the American Jewish Committee (AJC) is claiming a "fatwa," or Islamic legal ruling, has been issued against the writer of its new book "Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Islam for Jews" despite the fact that the alleged authors of the ruling disavow any such action. CAIR called on the AJC to stop "smearing" Muslims for political and financial gain.
For weeks, the AJC has been trying to interest reporters in an article from what the State Department called "a fairly marginal newspaper with a limited readership" that criticized Khalid Duran, the author of "Children of Abraham." The AJC and Duran's attorney attempted to portray the article as a "fatwa" and "death edict" from the Islamic Action Front in Jordan. On
Saturday, that group said no such ruling had been issued. (Associated Press, 6/30/2001)
Duran's attorney, Michael J. Wildes, is the same person who promoted a 1998 story about an alleged Pakistani scientist who claimed that country was planning a nuclear first-strike on India. Scientific experts who interviewed the defector pronounced him a fraud. (USA Today, 7/7/98)
"It is despicable that the American Jewish Committee, despite its stated intent of fostering interfaith understanding, would engage in a cheap publicity stunt to boost book sales at the expense of Muslims and Islam. To succeed in promoting this 'phony fatwa,' the AJC had to shamelessly smear Islam by tapping into and exploiting existing anti-Muslim stereotyping and bias," said CAIR Board Chairman Omar Ahmad.
"This is also part of a failed campaign by pro-Israel extremists to hand-pick Muslim 'leaders,' to counter growing American Muslim political activism and to distract attention from news items such as war crimes charges filed in Belgium against Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon," said Ahmad. Ahmad also
questioned why the AJC would seek to, on its own, create a new "Salman Rushdie" scenario when no one in the Muslim world had even heard of the alleged "fatwa."
(The AJC and the ADL were the only groups to testify before Congress in support of the use of secret evidence against Muslims and Arabs. AJC Executive Director David A. Harris wrote in the May 28, 2001, issue of The Jerusalem Report: "We [the pro-Israel lobby] dare not underestimate the Arab and Muslim lobbies [in America] or delude ourselves as to their ultimate objectives. The stakes are too high. The call for action by American Jewry, together with Israel, is clear.")
Since its publication in May, CAIR criticized Duran's book as a "laundry list" of hot-button issues that have often been used to stereotype Islam. The Muslim group also said the choice of Duran as the author was inappropriate because of his mysterious identity (Duran is apparently not his real name), his past conviction for defaming an Islamic center in Germany, his vocal
support for a group on the State Department list of designated terrorist organizations, and his close ties to infamous "Muslim bashers."
(Rabbi Reuven Firestone wrote a companion AJC Publication, "Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Judaism for Muslims" that did not take Duran's polemical approach. CAIR representatives have consistently noted that Khalid Duran has the right to write anything he wishes and that the AJC has the
right to publish any book it chooses, no matter how distorted or inaccurate.)
A Publishers Weekly (5/28/2001) review of "Children of Abraham" said:
"He [Duran] writes that 'the history of Jewish-Muslim relations is so complex that one can list as many positive as negative examples of their interaction,' yet he relates mostly the negative ones, sabotaging his ostensible purpose. He also misstates facts about Islam and women in Islam, and mishandles the description of dhimmi (minority status) in Islam. His many controversial assertions lack supporting evidence. He presents farfetched, incendiary theories, such as, 'the culprits in the Oklahoma City bombing [the Euro-American Timothy McVeigh and his fellow militia members] had an association' with the terrorist Osama Bin Ladin...The Islam described here is ritualistic, suspicious, misguided and overpowered by Islamists...Most troublesome is his habit of analogizing Islamic behavior to Nazi behavior. The juxtaposition, like the book, treads an unwise path."
The Chicago Tribune wrote: "When asked by the Tribune to examine the contents of the books, several experts on Islam and veterans of interfaith dialogue concluded that some of those fears [about the book's stereotypical content] may be justified. Although the book on Judaism avoids self-criticism and ignores such tough issues as Orthodox extremism, they said, the book on Islam slams Muslims for everything from sexism to terrorism...[AJC is] representing to themselves and the Muslim community the best possible face of Judaism and the most aggressive face of Islam." (5/3/2001)
The Tribune article also quoted Shalom Goldman, a professor of Middle Eastern Studies at Emory University, as saying: "In the history of Islam we go from the story of the prophet Mohammed to Khomeini in a couple of pages...In the Jewish book we don't go from Moses to [militant rabbi] Meir Kahane. In [Rabbi] Firestone's book, there are illustrations of women lighting shabbat candles. Go to Duran's volume and you see impassioned Islamists chanting and brandishing weapons at a rally."
Other mainstream Muslim groups (including the Islamic Society of North America) and Islamic scholars have also criticized the book. Dr. Aminah McCloud, professor of Islamic studies at DePaul University, said Duran's book would only be useful in a course on "polemics."
Muslim Leaders Walk Out of White House Meeting
More than 20 Muslim leaders and community representatives today walked out of a White House meeting to protest the exclusion of one of the attendees.
During a briefing with Rev. Mark Scott, Associate Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives, Abdallah Al-Arian was approached by a security guard who asked him to leave the premises. No reason was given for his removal from the meeting. All meeting participants walked out when they learned of Al-Arian's exclusion.
Al-Arian, 20, is a student at Duke University who works in the office of Congressman David Bonior (D-MI). He is the son of American Muslim activist Sami Al-Arian. The elder Al-Arian has been instrumental in the legislative challenge to the use of secret evidence against Muslims and Arabs and currently leads the National Coalition to Protect Political Freedoms.
The Muslim leaders who walked out of the meeting issued a joint
statement that read in part:
"This incident is the latest in an unfortunate pattern of exclusion by the Bush Administration. It sends a message to American Muslims that the White House will engage only if it is allowed to dictate the terms and decide who is allowed at the table.
"American Muslim organizations reject the notion that community members must pass a litmus test. A meaningful dialogue must be based on equity, accessibility and fairness; not exclusion, discrimination or exploitation by special interest groups."
"We expect the White House to clarify why Abdullah Al-Arian was excluded from the meeting and to apologize to him and to the Muslim community," said CAIR Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, who attended today's gathering. Organizations endorsing the statement include: American Muslims for Jerusalem (AMJ), Coalition for Good Government, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center, Islamic Institute, Karamah: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights, Muslim American Society Monitoring Team, Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), and North American Council for Muslim Women.