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.
Muslim Leaders arrested at White House sit-in to protest Sharon visit
Leaders of six national American Muslim organizations were arrested in a non-violent “sit-in” outside the White House to protest today’s meeting between President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Those arrested during the act of civil disobedience included the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), as well as representatives from American Muslim Council (AMC), American Muslims for Jerusalem (AMJ), Muslim American Society (MAS), Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), and Solidarity International for Human Rights.
"Today we sent a message to President Bush that he should not legitimize a world leader who has the blood of so many innocent Christians and Muslims on his hands. This was also a message to the people of our nation that they should not remain silent as Israel brutalizes the Palestinian people using weapons paid for with American tax dollars," said CAIR Board Chairman Omar Ahmad. Ahmad added that Sharon might view Bush’s uncritical support as a "green light" to carry out further attacks on the Palestinians.
Prior to the sit-in, several hundred people of all faiths protested Sharon's visit with signs and chants in Lafayette Park just across from the White House.
Bill C-16 Hearings almost over-contact the committee now
On May 17, 2001 CAIR CAN Executive Director Riad Saloojee and CAIR CAN Chair Sheema Khan presented testimony before the Standing Committee on Finance regarding Bill C-16, the Charities Registration (Security Information) Act.
Bill C-16 permits the use of secret evidence supplied by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and foreign government agencies to remove or deny charitable status to organizations that make any of their resources directly or indirectly available for terrorism.
CAIR CAN stated to the Committee that while the goal of Bill C-16 is to protect the integrity of the charitable system in Canada, it will include legitimate Canadian humanitarian initiatives, make a fair trial impossible and will have an adverse, disproportionate impact on legitimate Muslim charities. CAIR CAN also submitted a formal brief to the Committee containing a critique of the Bill and suggested amendments.
The Committee has the power to amend the Bill and correct its weaknesses. A number of Committee members have already indicated dissatisfaction with the Bill's objective and a number of its provisions. The hearings are almost over. It is important that Muslims contact the Committee, voice their concerns, and demonstrate that this is a pressing issue of social and legal justice.
Muslims ask Jewish Group to delay release of book on Islam
A national Islamic advocacy group today asked the American Jewish Committee (AJC) to delay the release of a new book on Islam for Jews until Muslim concerns about the book’s content and cover image can be addressed.
In April, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) questioned AJC’s choice of a controversial author for the book, called “Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Islam for Jews,” scheduled for release this week. CAIR says the author of that book, Khalid Duran, has a mysterious identity, associates with infamous “Muslim bashers” and was once convicted of defaming an Islamic center in Germany.
CAIR now says it also objects to an image of the Prophet Abraham (“Ibrahim” to Muslims) on the book’s cover. (For Muslims, created representations of prophets are inappropriate in that they distract from God’s message and could lead to a kind of idol worship, something forbidden in Islam. Just recently, a similar image of the Prophet Muhammad in Time magazine resulted in an apology to Muslims. [Reuters, 4/21/2001])
Duran’s book is one of two being published by the AJC. (http://www.ajc.org/pre/muslimjew.htm) Rabbi Reuven Firestone wrote the companion publication, “Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Judaism for Muslims.”
In a letter to AJC Executive Director David Harris, CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad wrote: “Given the AJC’s stated intent of promoting ‘understanding and mutual respect,’ it is puzzling as to why your organization would first of all engage an author who has little credibility in the Muslim community and then add insult to injury by using a cover image that many Muslims will find offensive. This book has the potential to do more harm than good in terms of interfaith relations.”
Awad added that the table of contents for Duran’s book reads like a “laundry list of stereotypes and hot-button issues.” He cited the book’s apparent description of the anti-Muslim political ideology of Kemal Ataturk as a “successful synthesis” and its focus on “Islamism,” “Jihadism,” “gender segregation” and “female circumcision,” issues often used to stereotype Muslims and Islam. Based on its table of contents, Rabbi Firestone’s companion book on Judaism for Muslims focuses on ordinary religious issues and lacks the Duran book’s critical tone.
CAIR has offered to have recognized scholars on Islam review Duran’s book for stereotypical or inaccurate content. Despite repeated requests, the AJC denied CAIR a preview copy of the book.
As evidence of Duran’s lack of credibility, CAIR noted that he is a close colleague of infamous Muslim bashers such as Steven Emerson, an author who Muslims say has a long history of attacks on Islam and on the American Muslim community. Duran was a consultant for Emerson’s now-discredited 1994 PBS program “Jihad in America.”
Reports also indicate that Duran will co-author a book called “Muslim America” with Daniel Pipes, another writer with an even longer history of Islamophobia than Emerson. Pipes, Emerson and Duran were among the first commentators to accuse Muslims of bombing the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995.
In 1997, a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) report responding to complaints about accusations made by Duran said, “A...factor which does not contribute much to Mr. Duran's credibility is the mystery surrounding his true identity. His real name is not Duran. ‘That's my mother's name,’ he told me. His father, whose name he wishes to withhold, was Moroccan, but Mr. Duran was born in Berlin, which is the reason for his German passport...When asked about his real name, he remains vague.”
“A third factor that undermines his credibility...is that he was sentenced in 1993 for making defamatory comments about the Islamic Center of Aachen, (Aix-la-Chapelle) in Germany. His sentence was to retract his statements or pay a heavy fine or, failing that, to go to prison...” Duran challenged the report's findings, but has not explained the mystery surrounding his name or his conviction for defamation in Germany.