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Germany: Hand Grenade Thrown At Refugee Shelter in Latest Attack On Asylum Seekers

5 February, 2016 - 21:20

Police officers of the crime scene investigation unit examine a refugee shelter in Villingen-Schwenningen, Germany, 29 January 2016. EPA

 

Asylum seekers were asleep in the building at the time and police said it was just ‘luck’ that the grenade did not detonate By Lizzie Dearden, The Independent

A hand grenade was thrown into a refugee shelter in Germany overnight as officials said attacks against asylum seekers in the country hit a new level of “hate and violence”.

Police in the southern town of Villingen-Schwenningen said it was “just luck” that the device did not explode when it landed at 1.15am.

Around 20 asylum seekers were sleeping inside the building at the time and were evacuated while a bomb squad destroyed it in a controlled explosion.

Refugee-centre-attack2.jpg Andreas Stenger, of State Office of Criminal Investigation shows a model hand grenade after an attack on a refugee shelter January 29, 2016 in Villingen-Schwenningen, Germany.

Heiko Maas, the German justice minister, said the attack represented a new level of “hate and violence” that must be addressed by local and federal authorities.

“Grenades are already being thrown at refugee homes – we can’t wait until there is someone dead,” he added.

“We need to do everything we can to ensure xenophobic crimes are more rapidly solved and punished more severely.”

Continue reading …

PSA: If You’re White, Don’t Drink And Watch Fox News!

22 January, 2016 - 22:39

white_dude_watching_fox_terrorism

By Emperor

This just in! White Americans should be aware, drinking and watching Fox News is a toxic combination that may cause you to transform into a white supremacist terrorist seeking to perpetrate violence against minorities.

Take the recent example of John David Weissinger. Maybe he had a bit of hate in him, maybe he lost his job or his wife cheated on him. We’re told he suffers from anxiety and depression. He also enjoyed a brew or two or, well, lets say a lot more than two. Apparently, as his lawyer tells it, after binge watching Fox News for a week straight he decided to threaten the CAIR chapters in San Diego and Washington.

Malowney said Weissinger has problems with alcohol, anxiety and depression and had just finished watching a week of Fox News coverage on the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris when he threatened the CAIR offices.

“He barks when he’s drunk,” Malowney told the judge. “He was reeling from depression and anxiety.”

A female employee at CAIR’s Kearny Mesa office testified during a preliminary hearing last April that she came to work the morning of Jan. 15, 2015, and listened to a threatening voicemail left by Weissinger.

“In no way did we deserve the terror that Mr. Weissinger waged on us,” the employee, identified as Jane Doe, said in a recorded statement played in court Tuesday. “Domestic terrorism is unacceptable and must be stopped.”

This isn’t the first time a Fox News watcher has gone loony. Remember Randy Linn? He was the guy who said, “I only know what I hear on Fox News,” then one day drank 45 beers, and decided to burn down a mosque in Toledo, Ohio.

Prosecutors said Linn drove about two hours from his home to suburban Toledo on Sept. 30 and broke into the mosque where he poured gasoline on the rug and lit it on fire.

He estimated that he had drunk 45 beers over several hours before he decided to drive to Ohio.

Linn had several firearms in his car and carried a gun into the mosque, which was empty at the time.

The fanatical Islamophobic hate against CAIR has been going on for years and sadly it hasn’t only been the usual online suspects and celebrity Islamophobes. The hatemongers have included elected public officials who give succor to conspiracies about the group, as well as presidential candidates such as Ben Carson.

So please, please don’t drink and watch Fox News!

Beaten For Speaking Arabic on Philadelphia Street

22 January, 2016 - 18:00

Amine Aouam (Facebook)

Amine Aouam (Facebook)

via. Rawstory

David Edwards 21 Jan 2016 at 14:08 ET

A Muslim immigrant said that he was beaten for speaking his native tongue while walking down a street in Philadelphia.

Amine Aouam, 34, told Metro that he was walking home after getting a drink with a friend on Saturday night when he encountered “a group of five or six white people.”

He recalled that one of the women in the group seemed to be staring at them while they spoke a Moroccan dialect of Arabic.

“I said to her in Arabic, ‘Good evening,’ which is ‘Masaa al-Khair,’” he explained. “She said ‘What?’ and I said, ‘I just said ‘Good evening.’ Then I walked. And the guy next to her was like ‘Stop this sh*t!’”

Youssef Amarouch, who was walking with Aouam, had a clearer recollection.

“Take that sh*t you said and shove it up in your ass,” Amarouch remembered the man saying.

Amarouch said that while Aouam was speaking to one of the men, another man “sucker-punched him from behind,” according to Metro.

“The guy came from his side and just punched him so bad. The first part of his body that hit the ground was his head,” Amarouch noted. “The whole thing happened in 10 seconds.”

The next thing Aouam remembered was waking up in the hospital.

Since the attack, Aouam has been forced to miss classes at Temple University, where he is a full-time student. And he hasn’t been able to return to his valet job at the Bellevue Hotel due to follow-up CAT scans and MRIs.

“To be honest, the only bad thing that happened to me in this case is my heart is so broken now,”

Continue reading …

Murderer Robert Craig Klimek Used “Stand Your Ground” Law To Get Away With Anti-Muslim Hate Crime

15 January, 2016 - 22:01

Ziad_Abu_Naim_Lisa

Ziad Abu Naim with his wife Lisa

By Emperor

In the US not only can you kill someone because you are motivated by racist hatred and get away with it, (especially if you are white) but you will also become a celebrity. This fact was brought home recently to most Americans when George Zimmerman murdered 17 year-old Trayvon Martin and proceeded to successfully use the “Stand Your Ground” defense to get away with murder.

In Texas this past June, a Muslim man, Ziad Abu Naim, was murdered by Robert Craig Klimek, who like Zimmeran, was acquitted by a grand jury when his lawyers focused on using the “Stand Your Ground” defense.

A killing of a Muslim man in what some are calling road rage, and others a hate crime, is bringing renewed attention to the deadly consequences of Texas’ “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law.

The shooting occurred in Houston on June 26, 2015 when Ziad Abu Naim and his wife, Lisa Aimone, were driving to visit with one of Naim’s business clients on the way to his mosque for Friday prayers. After turning left at a four-way intersection just a block from their home, Abu Naim’s vehicle almost struck another vehicle, driven by Robert Craig Klimek, another Houston resident.

Moments later, as described by Leah Caldwell in a Jan. 4 report for Texas Observer, Abu Naim was on the ground, bleeding from a gunshot wound:

“[Klimek] made a right turn and pulled alongside Abu Naim’s Porsche SUV. Both men rolled down their windows. Aimone sat forward in her seat to catch a glimpse of the man in the other car, and that’s when she heard it: “Go back to Islam!” Abu Naim opened the door and stepped out of the car. Aimone kept her eyes on his back. Within a few seconds, she heard a single gunshot.”

Abu Naim never recovered consciousness and died in a Houston hospital three days later. Klimek told police he shot Abu Naim after Abu Naim reached inside his vehicle and punched him multiple times, while Aimone insists there was no time for any blows before the fatal gunshot, and that the shouted words point to a possible hate crime.

Cowardly murderer Robert Klimek

Cowardly murderer Robert Klimek

The right-wing press was in an orgasmic state while reporting the murder of Abu Naim. What makes the right happier than: 1.) A Muslim killed, and 2.) A white guy doing it and getting away with it like in the “good ole’ days ” of lynchings and Jim Crow?

On top of all of this lets remember that Robert Klimek has a history of anti-Muslim rants on Facebook. Yet for some “reason” the prosecution decided this fact was not worthy of pursuing.

Prosecutors also ignored Aimone’s demands that the killing be investigated as a hate crime. Although Caldwell’s investigation found years of anti-Muslim rhetoric posted online by Klimek, Aimone said officials were “dismissive” of the possibility, and added, “It was almost like too much work for them to find something to see if it was a hate crime.”

If the roles were reversed you can bet that Abu Naim would be smeared as a terrorist and an extremist. The prosecutors would move heaven and earth to interpret any Muslim-y pic or post on Abu Naim’s social media as proof that he was an extremist. The right-wing media would be going nuts, blaming Obama and calling for us to bomb Agraba.

This of course is nothing new, racial bias permeates every inch of our justice system. MintPress quotes Prof. Tamara Rice Lave of the University of Miami School of Law on how the expansive Texas Stand your ground law encourages violence against minorities and the double standards involved.

“‘If somebody’s in the car, the ignition is on, the foot is on the gas pedal, then they can easily drive away,’ she said. ‘If it was a white, upper-class mother getting out of her car and approaching a car, [and she were shot], do I think there would be an indictment? Yes, there would be. It makes a difference who the victim is.’”

This is America.

Kenya: Muslims Shield Christians From Al-Shabab Militants

14 January, 2016 - 20:57

Al-Shabab

Most of you have heard this story this past December but it is worth posting here. This is the level of resistance we need to all kinds of violence, whether perpetrated by the West or militant groups such as Al-Shabab.

Via. BBC

They told the militants “to kill them together or leave them alone”, a local governor told Kenyan media.

At least two people were killed in the attack, near the north-eastern village of El Wak on the Somali border.

The Somali based al-Shabab group says it carried out the attack.

The group often carries out attacks in Kenya’s north-east.

The bus was travelling from the capital Nairobi to the town of Mandera.

When al-Shabab killed 148 people in an attack on Garissa University College in April, the militants reportedly singled out Christians and shot them, while freeing many Muslims.

Last year, a bus was attacked near Mandera by al-Shabab militants, who killed 28 non-Muslims travelling to Nairobi for the Christmas holidays.

“The locals showed a sense of patriotism and belonging to each other,” Mandera governor Ali Roba told Kenya’s private Daily Nation newspaper.

The militants decided to leave after the passengers’ show of unity, he added.

Continue reading…

Omaha Mosque Attacked For the Fourth Time in One Year

14 January, 2016 - 20:46

Islamic_Center_Omaha

Via. Democracy Now

The Council on American-Islamic Relations is demanding an FBI hate crime investigation into an attack and desecration at a mosque in Nebraska. Security footage shows two masked men threw rocks at the glass doors of the Islamic Center of Omaha and left bacon wrapped around its doors Tuesday. Pork is considered forbidden or “haram” in Islam. It’s the fourth attack on this Omaha mosque within the last year. A recent study finds hate crimes against Muslim Americans and U.S. mosques have tripled since the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.

The Emerging Islamophobe Coalition

12 January, 2016 - 19:40

Pegida_Islamophobia_Coalition

PEGIDA, anti-Muslim group in Germany.

Part 3 of 6 of an original series. See: part I and II.

By Umar Lee

It is no secret Islamophobia is on the rise. Hate for Muslims is manifested every day on social media, FOX News, talk-radio and other formats.  Most often this hate is relegated to only words. However, on occasion Islamophobia will manifest itself through violence or acts of physical intimidation.

Behind the random Twitter accounts and talk-radio hosts an Islamophobia industry exists.  There are those who see Islam as a threat for religious, political and nationalistic reasons.  These groups form a coalition of institutional and grassroots support for Islamophobia.  Other writers have looked at the financing of the Islamophobia industry.  I want to look at who is supporting Islamophobia from the grassroots.

Christian Right

The Christian-Right in America is the group perhaps most associated with anti-Muslim bigotry. This is the result of numerous articles and sermons by Evangelicals attacking Islam and Islamophobia becoming a staple of the Christian-right media along with issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

In years past there have been positive relations at times between the two groups. During the pre-9/11 years a significant portion of the American-Muslim community viewed the Christian-Right and the Republican Party as a natural ally as the two often shared conservative views on social issues and favored lower taxation.

Post-9/11 the Christian-Right has positioned itself not only as the defenders of America against a Muslim onslaught; but has aggressively attacked Islam theologically.

While the Christian-Right may share some concerns with other groups in the coalition what distinguishes them is theology.  With the proliferation of mosques in the United States and conversions to Islam the Muslim community is viewed as theological and spiritual competition.  Therefore, the more influence the Muslim community has in America, the less influence the Christian-Right has.

A cottage-industry has emerged within the Christian-Right for proselytizing to Muslims similar to what developed in previous eras when Jews, Mormons, and Catholics were viewed (and still are) as theological competition.

Hindu Nationalism

Ignored by many Muslim writers is the increased calls for unity between Christians, Jews and Hindus against the “global jihad”. This is an idea promoted by the Hindu-nationalist RSS in India and the BJP political party. As organizations affiliated with the RSS control a large portion of Hindu temples, summer camps, cultural institutions, and are politically active in America they’re using this influence often to promote Islamophobia.  Their Islamophobic position is rooted in political opposition to Pakistan and the search for allies on that front.  In the racial context of America Islamophobia can also help “scrub the brown away” as writer Arsalan Iftikhar said referring to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (a raised Hindu converted to Christianity).

Zionists

I don’t generally like to write about Zionism or Jews because I know this will open the doors in the comments section to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the Illuminati, the Rothschild family controls the world and a variety of other Jew-centric hair-brained conspiracy many, (including Muslims) seem to go for.

However,  there is no denial that there is a large, vocal and well-financed group(s) dedicated to Islamophobia within the Jewish community in America.

These Jewish Islamophobic groups range from right-wing Republican Likud supporters such as Sheldon Adelson to Orthodox Jewish groups associated with Israeli settler movements.  For these groups on the right of the political spectrum engaging in the promotion of Islamophobia in America and militarism abroad directed at Muslims is not ideologically problematic.

On the Jewish-left there is a more problematic ideological problem.  Having traditionally been at the frontlines of promoting civil-rights and equality in America, it is hard for many American-Jews on the left to take an outright hostile position towards Islam and Muslims.

Thus, a nuanced approach has emerged within the liberal-Jewish establishment to combating the emergence of a strong American-Muslim community in America.  Dissatisfied with the leadership of the American-Muslim community and the religious,  political and social norms within the community there has been an attempt to prop up an artificial leadership in a colonial-like fashion.  The greatest manifestation of this is the Shalom Hartmann Institute which has managed to cultivate a group of C, D, and F list Muslim writers, chaplains and others and try to establish them as the new Muslim thought leaders of America (with very little success).

From left to right the rationale for Islamophobia is clear within elements of the American-Jewish community; support for Israel.  A growing American-Muslim community is a community that brings a different perspective to the Arab-Israeli conflict, works to increase support for the Palestinian cause, and erodes media bias on the topic. For those not attached to Jewish groups that are either anti-Zionist or promoting peaceful co-existence, there is a great need to counter what they see as the Muslim threat in America.

White Nationalists

The presidential campaign of Donald Trump isn’t about Christian Conservatism it’s about White Nationalism. Trump and his supporters have identified two groups which threaten the racial-dominance of the white race in America;  Latino immigrants and Muslim immigrants.

This support for Islamophobia is rooted in both race and Civilization with roots as far back as the Crusades and as recent as the Minuteman standing guard at the border.

White Secular Left

The white secular-left at this time for the most part is seen as an ally for Muslims in America and for the most part it is. Look at the stances Democratic governors and presidential candidates have taken towards Syrian refugees as opposed to Republicans.  Look who is standing against Islamophobia on the ground and supporting refugees and it is most often the left, secular or religious, black or white.  In Europe this isn’t the case.  There are deep roots of Islamophobia within the European left based on cultural nationalism, belief in the supremacy of Western thought and values, and an extreme secularism. This strand of Islamophobia on the left isn’t absent in America (see The New Republic); but is certainly on the fringes at this time.

Dalia Mogahed on the Daily Show with Trevor Noah

8 January, 2016 - 22:00

Daily_Show_Dalia_Mogahed_Trevor_Noah

Excellent interview with Dalia Mogahed on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. Mogahed hits excellent points regarding issues relating to “theories of radicalization,” “terrorism,” and also questions about the hijab and oppression. Trevor asks her a question about liberals who make statements like “not every Muslim is a terrorist but every terrorist is a Muslim,” and responds with essentially the same fact we presented over 5 years ago in the article, “Are terrorists are Muslims except the 94% who aren’t.”

Provoking discussion, not riots: Sandow Birk’s “American Qur’an”

8 January, 2016 - 21:29

Sandow_Birk

Prof. Zareena Grewal’s Review of Sandow Birk’s “American Quran.”

Originally published at Salon, reposted with her permission.

Imagine yourself in a bland hotel room anywhere in the United States. You’re sitting on the edge of a bed with tightly tucked white sheets, flipping through TV channels without finding anything you can bear to watch. Out of lonely boredom, you open the top drawer of the nightstand. Instead of the requisite King James Bible, you find an English translation of the Quran inviting you to read its pages: “This is a message to all people, to whomever among you desire to take a straight path” (81:27–8).

Americans applauding Trump’s promise to ban all Muslims from U.S. borders might imagine the scenario above as a foreboding future brought on by the “browning of America” and a Muslim fifth column’s “Sharia creep.” Rather than as a sign of the destruction of America, painter Sandow Birk imagined this chance, cross-cultural encounter with the Quran as the conceptual launch of his nine-year journey of reading and reflecting on the Islamic scripture and the War on Terror. The result is his American Qur’an,” an illuminated manuscript published by W.W. Norton as a stunning coffee table art book, ideal as a Christmas or Hanukkah gift, perhaps for a friend or relative on your list persuaded by the fear-mongering of Donald Trump, who claims simply, “We have no choice.”

Birk’s “American Qur’an” intends to introduce the text to American audiences but he is neither inviting his readers to convert to Islam nor illustrating the history of Islam’s founding; the Quran struck him as far too poetic and abstract for such a literal approach. Birk eschewed the irony and satire that have become the knee-jerk impulse of so many Western artists who criticize the specter of Islam by representing the Prophet Muhammad as ugly, bloodthirsty, perverse and savage. In fact, Birk is unflinchingly neutral on the question of the reform of Islam. Contemplative and open-ended, Birk’s paintings collectively comprise a complete English transcription of the Quran bordered by narrative scenes of everyday life in the contemporary United States. In “Smoke,” Birk depicts the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 from the terrified pedestrians’ point of view. He critiques al-Qaida’s terrorism but also challenges the notion that contemporary Muslim political behavior was created and petrified in the seventh century text by analyzing contemporary jihadists alongside extreme forms of taken for granted state violence such as torture, capital punishment, warfare. Birk wants to provoke discussions, not riots, and while “American Qur’an” will likely strike many as controversial, his paintings reveal a welcome depth and seriousness lacking in so much of our national discourse about Islam.

Birk’s illuminated Quran is the first of its kind, not only because it is in English and its scenes are peopled, but also because Birk is not Muslim. For centuries, Muslim artists have created illuminated manuscripts of their sacred text out of faithful devotion. Birk’s relationship to the Quran is characterized by respect but not necessarily veneration. For example, Muslim artists have generally eschewed the human form in art that is explicitly religious and devotional in order to avoid graven images; Birk does not play by such Muslim rules. (Importantly, his paintings never received any Muslim backlash in the form of threats of violence despite years of media publicity and gallery shows.) Birk makes the Quran itself into a cultural criticism tool, a mirror, by making the exotic familiar and the familiar exotic, scrutinizing the beliefs and behaviors of ordinary Americans in much the same way as they typically scrutinize Muslim societies. Birk takes readers to each of the 50 states but also to places beyond the nation’s borders where the U.S. government exerts its power and force, often brutally: landscapes devastated by war in Japan and Iraq, the Guantánamo Bay prison camp in Cuba, and the militarized U.S.–Mexico border. Politically and artistically, Birk is quietly transgressive, and “American Qur’an” is far more interesting and edgy than the formulaic satirical depictions of the Prophet Muhammad that grab headlines.

Birk is driven by a political dilemma that troubles him and could not be more timely: Why can’t Islam be an American religion? Seventy-six percent of Republicans and 43 percent of Democrats polled believe Islam is incompatible with the American way of life. If the Bible, a 2,000-year-old book from the Middle East, is embraced as the very essence of American national culture and identity, why is another 1,400-year-old book from the Middle East deemed incomprehensible, dangerous and irredeemably un-American by so many? Birk’s “American Qur’an” tests both Islam’s claims to universality and the universal citizenship promised by American democracy. Can a white man who is not Muslim accept the Quran’s invitation to read, reflect on and interpret its verses without being accused of cultural trespass? Does the Quran have anything to say to a 21st-century American? Birk’s pairing of an image of a foreclosed house with the chapter titled “The Cheaters” is an emphatic affirmative answer to that question: “Woe to the cheaters, who demand full measure when they take from others, but short them when they measure for them” (83:1–3). As for whether there is room for Muslims in America, Birk suggests that we cannot know who is or is not Muslim just by looking at the people who populate “American Qur’an”; the same holds true for the people who populate America.

In the wake of the gut-wrenching San Bernardino, California, shootings, anti-Muslim discrimination and hate crimes have spiked though they were already on the rise. American Muslims are suffering a backlash and I am painfully aware that my non-Arabic name and unconcealed hair make me less vulnerable than friends and family who “look Muslim.” It is exhausting, frightening and alienating living among so many people who are ready to indict not only my faith but to punish me and millions of Muslims like me for the crimes of a few, crimes that I find just as terrifying as they do.

Growing up in Detroit, my family’s Quran was a cheap, worn paperback that belonged to my maternal grandmother, brought to the U.S. by my mother 40 years ago. The family lore about my grandmother’s short life was a spare mix of sad and inspiring fragments. As a young woman, she lost two of her daughters and their family farm to the war in India before she made a new life as a refugee in Pakistan. In her 50s, and with a greater semblance of peace, she nurtured a new ambition: to learn to read. There was only one book that she wanted to read, and she wanted to read it in its original language, not her native Punjabi. That book was the Quran. So she learned to read Arabic, a language she did not speak or understand, from a tutor, a young girl who had committed the entire book to memory. One page at a time, she worked her way through the book and it was her proudest and final achievement.

As a child, I learned to read Arabic the same way my grandmother did, phonetically, with only a vague sense of what the words meant. While I made my way through children’s primers with large blocky print, my grandmother’s Quran sat on a high shelf, wrapped in a neon pink stretchy material that reminded me of a bathing suit, complete with a single, long spaghetti strap my mother untied when she found a few spare minutes to read to herself. I felt the visceral power of the Quran’s words not in their translated meaning but in their ability to absorb my mother’s attention in a way nothing else could. Sometimes I would call her and she would not hear me, lost in fine black Arabic letters curling across thin, mint green paper.

That’s not to say I grew up in a strict, religious family. My mother taught piety by her example, not lectures. My family practiced Islamic rituals loosely and debated theology hotly. Fatwas were treated for what they were, mere religious opinions that one could take or leave, as numerous and varied as the guests at our dinner table arguing over them. Then one day an old turbaned man on television transformed the word “fatwa” into a license to kill. The world turned upside down over a novel that posited that the real author of the Quran was Satan. My teacher told our class the problem was that Muslims did not understand fiction as an art. He did not seem to understand that art could also be a racial insult. I did not say anything in class or to the teenage boys who called my Muslim friend a fundamentalist and threatened her with a knife at the bus stop. I wanted to share the Islam I knew intimately but all that stumbled out of my mouth was an embarrassed confession that my grandfather bore a striking resemblance to the Ayatollah Khomeini.

Now, as an adult and an Ivy League religion professor, I am far more prepared to field questions about Islam and the so-called clash of civilizations from friends and strangers, students and journalists. Many want me to disown the violence of jihadists as impurities polluting Islam’s peaceful essence; I disappoint them when I explain that interpreting the Quran incorrectly is not enough to put someone beyond the pale of the faith. Others want me to confirm that no institution has caused more bloodshed than religion and that a world without religion would be a peaceful one; I remind them that the 20th century may have been the most violent in history, with its world wars, colonial conquests, revolutions and counterrevolutions—much of the blood spilled in the name of nation-states, and not God. Others want to separate the ugliness of religion from a beautiful set of shared values that they call spirituality. They want me to confirm that Muslims believe in peace, compassion, forgiveness, generosity, and that once we boil religions down to their spiritual “essence,” we are all the same. They are surprised when I challenge the invisible line they have drawn between this thing they call spirituality and this thing they call religion. What if the rules and the martyrdom and the glorified suffering and the desire for power and the regimes of self-discipline blur right into the love and the light? Aren’t we surrounded by secular forms of all of the things we love and hate about religion?

Birk’s transcribed pages force us to confront our fears about how different and similar we might be. Some are frightened by Islam because even “moderate Muslims” believe the Quran is “the literal word of God.” When many Americans hear the expression “the literal word of God,” they misunderstand it to mean that Muslims only read the Quran literally or are only allowed to do so. In fact, a literal reading of the seventh verse of chapter 3 reveals that the Quran contains verses that are self-evident in meaning, as well as allegorical passages and mysteries beyond the comprehension of the human intellect. “[God] has sent down the Book for you. Some of its signs are decisive—they are the basis of the Book—and others allegorical” (3:7). Since the Quran never specifies which verses to take literally or allegorically, Muslims must rely on their communities of interpretation, often led by religious scholars such as jurists and theologians. Muslims have always argued over the Quran’s meanings. After the Prophet Muhammad’s death, an early community of Muslims challenged what they saw as the excessive interpretive liberties of the Caliph Ali, the Prophet’s cousin. They accused the caliph, in his capacity as ruler, of trespassing over the bounds of human interpretation and encroaching on the dominion of God’s law. In response, Caliph Ali brought a Quran to a large crowd. Touching the book, he instructed it to speak and to explain God’s law. Alarmed and surprised, the onlookers protested, “The Quran cannot speak, for it is not human!” This, the caliph explained, was precisely his point. As mere ink and paper, the Quran does not speak for itself. It is human beings who give the book its consequence by reading, reflecting, drawing out meanings and lessons, constructing arguments, all contingent on their recognition of the inevitable limits of human understanding and the limitlessness of the book’s divine truth.

Birk remains unconvinced of any claims of divinity; however, he is seeking answers to big questions. Why are we here? What happens after we die? Why do bad things happen to good people? By virtue of its format, with text boxes partially obscuring scenes, Birk forces us to confront our own biases. In forcing us to try (metaphorically) to peer around the Quran’s words to see what is happening in his scenes, Birk highlights our always partial (in both senses of the word) understanding. His “American Qur’an” teaches us to look with humility, to remember that none of us has a God’s-eye view of our world.

Imagine that the English translation of the Quran you discovered in the top drawer of that hotel nightstand or under your Christmas tree was Sandow Birk’s “American Qur’an.”

Zareena Grewal is associate professor of American Studies & Religious Studies at Yale University and the author of “Islam Is a Foreign Country: American Muslims and the Global Crisis of Authority” (NYU Press 2013) and “Is the Quran a Good Book?” (forthcoming) Follow her on Twitter at @ZareenaGrewal

NYPD Forced to Reach Settlement Over Surveillance of Muslims

7 January, 2016 - 22:45

NYPD_Surveillance

A victory against institutionalized bigotry. Much props to all those who worked to bring the NYPD to reach a settlement.

The Hill

The New York Police Department has agreed to reform its internal policies to prevent future explicit targeting of Muslims following a lawsuit over the department’s surveillance activities.

In the settlement reached on Thursday, the NYPD agreed to erect new barriers preventing officers from launching investigations that are largely based around a suspect’s race, religion or ethnicity. The reforms will also reinstall a civilian watchdog within the police department to prevent unfair targeting and will limit the use of undercover and confidential informants.

The concessions amount to significant reforms for the NYPD after the controversy surrounding the department’s aggressive surveillance of Muslims in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“For the first time, this watershed settlement puts much needed constraints on law enforcement’s discriminatory and unjustified surveillance of Muslims,” Hina Shamsi, the director of the national security project at the American Civil Liberties Union and a lawyer involved in the case, said in a statement. “At a time of rampant anti-Muslim hysteria and prejudice nationwide, this agreement with the country’s largest police force sends a forceful message that bias-based policing is unlawful, harmful, and unnecessary.”

A federal judge must approve the terms of the settlement before they can go into effect.

If approved, the settlement would bring to a close two of three lawsuits launched against the NYPD over its practices of closely scrutinizing Muslims based only on their religion. The practices were revealed in a series of high-profile, Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press stories in 2011 and 2012, which detailed how the police department’s expansive intelligence unit secretly monitored Muslim neighborhoods, schools, stores and mosques.

Civil liberties advocates said the behavior likely violated the Constitution.

Continue reading…

White-flight, Community and Masjid Building

26 December, 2015 - 16:53

White_Flight_Suburban_Mosques

Sterling Heights, Michigan Planning Commission votes 9-0 against planned mosque, finding it ‘not harmonious’ with neighborhood 9/11/15. (via. AlJazeera)

Part 2 of 6. See Part 1 here.

By Umar Lee

Over the last two decades we’ve witnessed an explosion in the opening and building of new masjids in America. Most of these masjids exist in relative peace and quiet and seldom make the news. However, a growing number of masjids are facing backlash from non-Muslim neighbors or in some cases hostility to even getting a building permit.

Some of these issues are unavoidable.  Other issues masjids are having could’ve been easily predicted when analyzing the demographic make-up and political inclinations of the areas of the masjids.

For the sake of this article we can divide America into five categories: urban, suburban, exurban, rural and college towns.  As the vast majority of Muslims are living in metropolitan areas and most transition out of college towns let’s take the last two off the table.

I will use my hometown of St. Louis as an example.  When I took shahadah in 1992 St. Louis had two masjids. Masjid al-Mu’Minun which is primarily African-American and a community affiliated with Imam W.D. Mohammed and the Islamic Center (now known as Masjid Bilal) which was known as “the immigrant masjid.” Today there are around 25 or more masjids in the St. Louis Metropolitan Area.

The first two new masjids were Dar al Islam and Masjid at-Taqwa wa-Jihad. Two different masjids, with two different demographics in two entirely different communities.

Dar al Islam was opened by the Islamic Foundation in the affluent western suburbs of St. Louis far from the city. From the old mosque of the foundation,  Masjid Bilal (in Midtown St. Louis NOT downtown as some incorrectly say), it is around two hours on public transportation.  The resources of the Foundation immediately went to the western suburbs and became unavailable to those without the wealth to live in the western suburbs.

This occurred at a time when more than one-fifth of the buildings in St. Louis were vacant. Houses were being sold for a few hundred dollars and sometimes even less. For the cost of purchasing the land and building a masjid in West St. Louis County Muslims could’ve literally built an entire neighborhood in the city of St. Louis with a masjid, school, housing and retail.

The choice to go to West St. Louis County mimicked the white-flight pattern that began in St. Louis in the 1950’s. In 1950 St. Louis city had over 800,000 residents. Today the city has just over 300,000 while 2.5 million are in the Metropolitan area.  There are many factors for the loss of population in the city; but the biggest is the desegregation of city schools and neighborhoods which led to white-flight. The same is the case in many cities across America.

When asked why new masjid projects aren’t being undertaken in cities for the most part Muslim leaders point to crime and schools.  I’ll argue that instead of taking a defeatist attitude these Muslim leaders could help lead their congregations by helping reduce crime and improve schools.

Masjid at-Taqwa wa-Jihad was started by a group of African-American Muslims who had been meeting at Masjid Bilal every Monday night.  The masjid opened in a high-crime poor neighborhood in the heart of North St. Louis in the most violent year in the history of the city (1994). The goal was to bring Islam to the streets and take it precisely to the neighborhoods others were fleeing. With few resources and infighting between Muslims who favored a more Black Nationalist approach and those with a “Book and Sunnah” approach the new masjid split.

Whereas most practicing Muslims in St. Louis once knew one another, the openings of these masjids started a geographic split that has only continued with time followed by an ethnic split.

The suburban masjid, or Islamic Center as many preferred, became the idea for many and Muslims found comfort in places like Falls Church, VA, Bridgeview, IL and Irving, TX.  After all Muslims value the safe streets and good public schools like everyone else.

The rise of exurbia added another dimension. Exurbs are those far-flung suburbs outside of suburbs even further away from the urban-core often surrounded by rural areas.  Exurbs tend to be the most conservative and whitest part of any metropolitan area. Places where any informed citizen could tell you there’d likely be a problem opening a masjid in the area. These are places where most often whites have moved from more diverse suburbs and urban neighborhoods to be around other white people.  A masjid isn’t what they had in mind when setting up shop in their new cul-de-sac.

Despite this exurbia is now home to a growing number of Muslims living in the heart of Trump’s America and Tea Party America and more and more there is friction.  We see this in Fredericksburg, VA and Murfreesboro, TN amongst other places.  Muslims should be able to open a masjid anywhere.  The question is how good is setting up shop in an ocean of angry rednecks for your children,  community-building, and your mental health?  Bubba is gonna be Bubba. Open houses and press releases aren’t gonna change that.

Clustering and Community

Any community in America that has achieved vibrancy and a political power-base has done so through clustering it’s population.  American-Muslims for some reason (outside of some traditional African-American jamaats) have decided this isn’t important.  I even remember an ISNA speaker glowing about how spread out the Muslim community is.

There is no political power and “bloc vote” without clustering. It’s the same for Muslims as it is for everyone else. You want to affect city elections? Then the Muslim population must be clustered in certain neighborhoods/wards/districts. The same concept is true right up the line to presidential elections.  If you want to affect the presidential elections you have to cluster in certain states and be a deciding vote.

However,  it’s much deeper than politics.  To build a social life for the Muslim community and especially for children you need to cluster.  Historically this has been the case if you look at Muslim communities in New York, New Jersey, Philly, Northern Virginia, Chicago, Michigan,  Atlanta, and now increasingly Texas. I’m not sure how anyone expects their kids to be comfortable as Muslims when they move to neighborhoods with few or no Muslims and send them to often hostile school environments.

The question is where do you cluster?  My argument is its socially,  politically and religiously irresponsible to do so in exurbia or exclusive suburbs.

It’s socially irresponsible because you’re exposing your families to intense Islamophobia while you are bolstering communities which themselves are pulling public resources from the more diverse urban-core. The hate for Muslims is largely coming from White conservative America.  You can live in diverse communities and get few hassles from the city or your neighbors; but you’d rather live in opposition surrounded by people who hate you?

It’s politically irresponsible because it thins out the Muslim vote and thus the influence Muslim voters can have.

It’s religiously irresponsible for many reasons. Some are logistical such as going from places you can walk to the masjid to places you have to drive. The greater issue is as you pull Muslim resources into exurbia you limit the access Muslims of more moderate incomes have. We are already in an era of people paying large amounts of money to hear knowledge from celebrity imams and now you wanna add to that the burden of even getting to the masjid?

There is a lot of room for a happy middle ground.  I view suburban Muslim communities such as Irving, TX as one of them. Suburban, but affordable, diverse and not far from the urban-core.

Opening a masjid isn’t a simple matter.  It’s time for community leaders to consider these issues when deciding where to build and pay as close attention to this issue as they do to masjid parking (oh wait! ).

Glossary: Masjids: Mosques.; Shahadah: Declaration of faith.; Jamaats: Movements.

Umar Lee is an author and freelance writer from St. Louis now based out of Dallas. He may be contacted atUmarlee@gmail.com and found at Twitter @STLAbuBadu

30 Percent of Republicans Want to Bomb Aladdin’s Hometown Agrabah

18 December, 2015 - 20:42

Republicans_Bomb_Agrabah_Aladdin

Public Policy Polling asked Republicans if they would want to bomb the fictional town of Agrabah in Disney’s Aladdin movie.

These are the results:

Support bombing Agrabah  …………………………30%

Oppose bombing Agrabah  …………………………13%

Not sure ……………………………………………………57%

AladdinIs nothing sacred?

One wonders where all these Republicans were radicalized? Charles Pierce notes some more startling aspects of the polling.

1) That Marco Rubio’s unfavorable numbers are exactly the same (34 percent) as Donald Trump’s. Which makes Rubio seven points more unpopular than Ted Cruz, whom nobody likes except his mother, and she could be jiving, too. And that, in a head-to-head hypothetical, Cruz crushes Rubio, 48 percent to 34. Xenophobes have long memories, Marco.

2) That 80 percent of Republican primary voters favor banning gun sales to people on the no-fly list, not that it will matter.

3) That 46 percent of them want a database kept of all Muslims in America.

4) That just as many of them believe that Muslims danced on rooftops on 9/11 as do not believe that this thing that didn’t happen didn’t happen.

France: Internment Camps

18 December, 2015 - 18:18

 Guy Smallman)

Muslims and anti-racists held a 700-strong rally near Paris last week against rising Islamophobia in France (Pic: Guy Smallman)

There are serious discussions regarding so-called “preventative” internment camps for those classed as “extremists” by the French state.

via. Socialist Worker

Days earlier prime minister Manuel Valls sought legal advice on setting up “preventative” internment camps for those classed as extremists.

The number of people in this category doubled to 20,000—the majority of them Muslims—between August and November.

Chair Sihame Assbague called for putting slips of paper saying “no votes without justice” in ballot boxes instead of voting papers.

Campaigner Marwan Muhammad criticised much of the left, “who couldn’t be here because they found it more important to justify themselves to racists.”

Salma Yaqoob, a leading figure from the anti-war movement in Britain, pointed to what could be gained from cooperation between Muslims and the left.

Hanane Karimi is a campaigner in eastern France where the FN led the first round.

She told Socialist Worker, “A victory for the FN would be a catastrophe for everyone.

“But its ideas have been allowed to become so widespread that it becomes a possibility.

“Politics have lurched to the far right. The Socialist Party has been the best possible advert for the FN.

“In France there is no political alternative—and perhaps we need to build one.”

Read the rest of the article

Trump, Whiteness and The Muslim Community

16 December, 2015 - 17:49

make-america-white-again

Part 1 of an orginal 6 part series on Islamophobia and Muslims in America.

By Umar Lee

There are many people shocked at the ascendancy of Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump to the top of the polls and his fundamental transformation of the political dialogue in this country. Outside of the Mexican-American community and possibly Jeb Bush there’s no one more alarmed by the rise of Trump than the American-Muslim community.

As a central part of his platform Trump has pledged he will both defeat “radical Islamic terrorism” abroad and root out American-Muslim terrorists on the home front. The measures Trump has suggested include closing mosques, monitoring mosques, denying Muslims entry to the country, ordering customs agents to administer a religious test and more. While Trump’s suggestions have shocked media-elites polls show they’re supported by a majority of GOP voters.

After the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino Trump has stepped up his rhetoric and along with that we’ve seen an uptick in hate crimes and violence against Muslims in America.  In general there is an attitude of fear and apprehension in the American-Muslim community and this is particularly true in the middle-class suburban communities (many located in the heart of Trump’s America).

Muslims have expressed shock; but should we? As I’ve already stated a majority of GOP voters support Trump’s proposals. Trump is also not alone in his calls for targeting the Muslim community. In fact if you listen to conservative or Christian talk-radio Trump seems pretty moderate compared to the daily hate talk and incitement heard over the air on a daily basis.

The positions of Trump also aren’t all that different than many in the GOP presidential field.  Nor would they seem in bad taste in the majority of white American settings in America once you leave the isolated liberal enclaves and college campuses. As a testament to the mainstream nature of Trump support last week he was endorsed by the New England Police Union. To borrow from Imam Jamil al-Amin “Trump is as American as cherry pie”.

Polls have shown Trump support is largely coming from blue-collar uneducated whites (my own demographic). And here is where we get to the heart of the issue and I know this is a bitter pill for many American-Muslims to deal with and crushes the dreams of leadership.  No matter how much you compromise the deen, no matter how many interfaiths you host, no matter how progressive you are, no matter how many degrees you have,  no matter how many McMansions you buy, and no matter how many cookie-cutter masjids you open in white suburbia, no matter how fly your American flag hijab is, no matter how smooth your shave is, you’re not white. As sister Namira Islam of MuslimARC recently stated “give up on it, it’s over”.

White America has always needed something to oppose and hate. White America is about a racial-construct and you’re either in it or out. If you’re out of it then you can and will be seen as a threat to white hegemony. If you are an African-American Muslim you know this.  Many of our immigrant Muslims and their children have learned the hard way like the side piece who wakes up and realizes one day she’ll never be wifey. They’re now crying and saying “but I thought you loved me”. The sociologist may see the Arab as white; but Bubba and Buffy certainly don’t.  The well-heeled Desi may see themselves as a cool cousin to whiteness;  but even the non-Muslim Sikh isn’t safe in America today. Bosnians are mostly white enough to go to a Klan rally and fit right in at a gentrified hipster bar; but in my hometown of St. Louis most don’t see the huge Bosnian community as a white community.

Today Muslims are the focus of the hate, rage and increasingly violence of a large swath of white America.  There are those arguing that every immigrant group in America gets their turn to be hated. There is some truth to this narrative if you look at historical discrimination patterns against Roma, Jews, Irish and Italians. Yet the Muslim community is much different.  First, the Muslim community is overwhelmingly a non-white community and even whites in the Muslim community are seen as suspect,  and second Muslims are identified with a global body challenging the supremacy of white western norms and belief systems on the left and right.

There have traditionally been two mindsets for Muslim community building in America. The first says success is defined by entering the mainstream middle-class and all the trappings that entails. This is a vision centered in acceptance by whiteness. The second says Muslim community building is about building strong and sustainable Muslim communities based on Islamic concepts which can critique the American mainstream via Islamic knowledge.  In a post-911 era with the fear of being labeled radicals the first vision has largely won out. However,  the popularity of Trump may signal to many what I see as the futility of this mindset.

As Professor Tim Wise of Vanderbilt stated “whiteness isn’t based on what you are it’s based on what you aren’t”. One of those things you “aren’t” is Muslim.

Glossary: “Deen”-Ar. for religion. “Masjids”-Mosques, Muslim house of worship. “Desi”-Of Indo-Pak-Bengal-Sri Lankan heritage.

Umar Lee is an author and freelance writer from St. Louis now based out of Dallas. He may be contacted atUmarlee@gmail.com and found at Twitter @STLAbuBadu

Gustavo Arellano: We Mexicans welcome Muslims as the new Public Enemy Number One

13 December, 2015 - 07:36

_Latino_Solidarity

Article is on point.

By Gustavo Arellano, The Guardian

Hey, Muslims: congrats! You’re America’s new Mexicans, and it’s all gracias to our common enemy, Donald Trump.

Let me explain. Anyone with a brain is rightfully upset by Trump’s recent remarks that he wants to ban Muslims from migrating to the United States, never mind that he has extensive business dealings in Muslim countries or that he’s also hypocritically professed to love Muslims. Republican presidential candidates are jumping over each other to decry Trump’s remarks even as they say there’s some truth to Trump’s heresies.

Meanwhile, a big part of America hoots and hollers in approval and awaits the next horrid pronouncement. (Here come the internment camps).

Thanks to all this, Muslims are now public enemy número uno. Welcome to being a Mexican in the United States.

Forgive us for feeling a bit of déjà vu. After all, he pulled this same type of mierda earlier this year. Remember? That whole thing about Mexicans being rapists and criminals and drug smugglers? Followed by him proclaiming to love Mexico – and the revelation that his jacket line is made there?

Republican candidates condemned Trump’s anti-Mexican babbling at the time, but then adapted his ideas as their own even as Trump leveled up with even more outlandish proposals, like deporting 11 million undocumented people (read: “wetbacks”) or building a massive border wall. And a big part of America agrees that it is a good idea.

It’s a natural nadir of race relations in this country that America has finally placed y’all as high as we are in the totem pole of who to hate. After all, we represent the two biggest nightmares of an American psyche that still acts like it just landed in Plymouth Rock: race-mixing for us, a non-Christian background for ustedes.

Don’t feel lonely as the hate escalates in the coming year. We Mexicans are here for the ummah. After all, the guidebook Americans will follow to properly loathe Muslims was written long ago to use on us.

Read the rest…

BREAKING: Mosque in Coachella Firebombed With Worshippers Inside

12 December, 2015 - 03:16

2015-12-11T23-31-50-666Z--1280x720.nbcnews-video-reststate-560

Authorities have confirmed a mosque was firebombed at 12 noon local time on Friday in Coachella, California, while people were praying inside. No immediate injuries were reported, but there has been significant damage done to the mosque itself.

KMIR, a local news station, reported the fire was started with a molotov cocktail to the front lobby of the Islamic Society of Coachella Valley. At least two other local news outlets confirmed from officials that the mosque was“fire-bombed.” The attack is currently under investigation by the FBI and the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

via. USUncut

Hate Attack on New York Muslim Part of Rise in Islamophobia

12 December, 2015 - 01:42

Trump_Nazi

Donald Trump says if he wins the election he will ban Muslims from entering the country.

By Emperor

I am sure somewhere someone is meticulously compiling the shameful list of hate attacks, incidents and rhetoci that has inundated our news feeds and timelines. Myself, I can’t keep up with all the attacks and hate rhetoric, punctuated by Donald Trump’s call for Muslims to be banned from entering the USA, that have exploded since the San Bernardino attacks.

As the title states, in one such instance a Muslim man was attacked by Piro Kolvani who decided he had to drive from Florida to New York to beat on a Muslim (Kolvani was inspired by the NY Post front covers). Kolvani viciously attacked Sarker Haque, who stated, “I never saw a situation like that. Not even after 9/11.”

The insane way America responds to attacks by Muslims versus attacks by others, (particularly White males who have committed the greatest and most significant numbers of mass shootings) highlights the hypocrisy inherent in significant sectors of Americana.

What Trump said shocked the system, before that point Islamophobia was rampant as well but many of those in positions of influence were asleep to its decadent and corrosive effects on the body politic. And lets be real, “Islamophobia” is a massive problem on the left! New Atheists such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Bill Maher are no better than Trump and the rest of the Republican field and they get feted by Hollywood, politicians and others who feel no shame when they break out in thunderous applause after every hate-filled comment.

American politicians have salivated at the opportunity to vote in support of war, occupation, invasion, and drone attacks that have destroyed countless Muslims for years now; that has barely registered a peep of condemnation.

Of course there are wonderful Americans who have been pushing back against this ugly hate but there are still some who are stuck on semantic hang-ups, debating whether “Islamophobia” is the right term, which is really another way to deflect and undermine the struggle against Islamophobia.

I share here a public post by Evergreen State College Professor Sarah Eltantawi that captures some of what I want to say. For those who yammer on and on about how great and better “our culture” is than “theirs,” no, you are horridly wrong, you are not better.

//

This is a very disturbing country. I have traveled around and lived in the Middle East extensively. A sentence like, “…

Posted by Sarah Eltantawi on Friday, December 11, 2015

Study Correlates Religiosity To A “Stronger Sense of National Belonging”

10 December, 2015 - 23:47

Deakin University researcher Fethi Mansouri says he had found that Australian Muslims who followed both regular law and sharia did not experience a sense of not belonging. Picture: Hollie Adams

This throws another wrench into the faulty radicalization models that claim extremism is related to greater levels of religiosity. It is also going to make some people, especially new-atheists unhappy, which is not a bad thing.

The Australian 

The more religious Australian Muslims are, the greater their sense of civic duty and of belonging to the nation, research has found.

The study by University of Western Sydney human geographer Kevin Dunn also found there was no empirical evidence to suggest Islamophobia caused religious radicalisation.

The finding contrasts with a claim made to this effect by ­Australia’s Grand Mufti, Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, in the wake of last month’s Paris terror attacks.

Professor Dunn led a team that interviewed hundreds of Muslims in Sydney mosques and Islamic centres and at Eid festivals. The surveys tested for ­incompatability and disaffection among Muslims, as well as feelings of being settled and belonging. The work found that the majority of interviewees were “well integrated into Australian society” and that “higher levels of religiosity were positively associated with stronger national ­belonging and a sense of Muslim integration”.

Religiosity was defined through a series of questions, ­including whether children were enrolled at Islamic schools, how important religion was to the ­interviewee and how often they prayed, attended mosque and fasted.

The study found that Muslims experienced racism at greater rates than other Australians, up to three times higher on average, but Professor Dunn said there was no evidence this in itself led to radicalisation.

Continue reading …

Did You Know The Dalai Lama Is A Secret Muslim?

5 December, 2015 - 19:11

Dalai_Lama

According to a Buddhist sect opposed to the Dalai Lama, he is a secret “Muslim.” Apparently, the appelation of “Muslim” is now the ultimate “other” in a number of contexts. (h/t:Farid)

via. New York Times

“The Dalai Lama is stalked wherever he goes these days by drumbeating protesters shouting, ‘False Dalai Lama, stop lying!’ They belong to the International Shugden Community, part of a Buddhist sect that accuses the Dalai Lama of ostracizing worshipers of the deity in Tibetan mysticism known as Dorje Shugden, as well as, more bizarre, of being a Muslim.”

Read the entire article…

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