Terror Plots Shock US Muslims
Shocked by a series of terror arrests, American Muslims are joining hands in condemning any attacks against their country.
“Everyone here unequivocally condemns this,” Driss El-Akrich, a doctoral student in public administration at the University of Illinois at Springfield, told the State Journal-Register Saturday, September 26.
“For somebody to claim they are doing this in the name of Allah, they are betraying the values of the faith they are claiming to serve.”
A 29-year-old Muslim revert was arrested Wednesday in Illinois on charges of plotting attack against a courthouse in the state.
Police said the young man left an explosives-laden van near the courthouse and used a mobile phone to try to detonate the vehicle.
“I had to listen to it (the news) again and again,” Javed Cheema, director of Horace Mann’s project management office, said.
“I couldn’t believe this was happening in my hometown."
The arrest came four days after three Americans of Afghan origin were arrested on charges of preparing a 7/7-style attacks in New York.
On Thursday, police arrested a 19-year-old Jordanian on claims of trying to bomb Dallas’s 60-storey Fountain Place skyscraper.
Muslim leaders denounced the attack plots as un-Islamic.
“Every Muslim — young, old, woman — knows this is not of Islam,” said Sheikh Ahmed Fauzi, imam of the Islamic Society of Greater Springfield’s mosque on Stanton Ave.
Fauzi said he was saddened by the news of the plotted attacks in the name of Islam.
“If you read the Qur’an, you do not commit crime,” Fauzi said during the Friday sermon.
“You do not spread crimes throughout the earth.”
Muslim leaders are worried that such individual acts would have a negative impact on the Muslim community as a whole.
“I didn’t know to be more angry, scared or frustrated — that this was being done in the name of Islam,” said Cheema, the director of the Horace Mann’s project management office.
“It puts all of us in a bad situation. The community has been very, very welcoming to us.”
American Muslims, estimated at between six to seven million, have been in the eye of storm since the 9/11 attacks.
They have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights, with a prevailing belief that America was targeting their faith.
A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that American Muslims are still discriminated against other than any religious groups in the US, eight years after the 9/11 attacks.
Hawaii’s Islam Day
Hundreds of people in the US state of Hawaii have celebrated the island’s first Islam Day in recognition of the rich religious, scientific and cultural contribution of the Muslim world.
"It's a historic day. It’s long overdue,” Hakim Ouansafi, president of the Muslim Association of Hawaii, told the Honolulu Advertiser on Friday, September 25.
“It's a day of celebrating our commonality, a day of people of faith and no faith to get together and talk story."
Hundreds of people packed the McCoy Pavilion at Ala Moana Beach Park on Thursday to celebrate Hawaii's Islam Day.
"We expected 200 to 300, so we're very pleased with the turnout," said Ouansafi.
The Day featured entertainment activities, games for children, free food and a panel discussion on coexistence in a pluralistic society.
The Hawaii state legislature has passed a resolution to mark Islam Day in recognition of the rich religious, scientific and cultural contributions of the Muslim world.
Though adopted overwhelmingly, the resolution sparked debate across the island.
"A lot of people reacted out of fear and ignorance,” said Ouansafi.
“They’ve had a chance to reflect a little bit more and people are coming around."
Hawaii is home to a Muslim community of 3,000.
There are between six to seven million Muslims in the US.
Celebrating the day, Suha Khan was proud of being a Muslim.
"It's a very big step and a huge step in this society," said the 19-year-old graduate of Pearl City High School and student at Leeward Community College.
"It means that people recognize us as a religion and respect us.”
Khan, of Pakistani origin, said that celebrating the Islam Day in Hawaii makes her and her fellow Muslims feel they are part and parcel of American society.
“For me, it makes me very happy because as an American citizen, I love this country,” said the hijab-clad Muslim girl.
“It has given my parents and me opportunities we would not have in our home country. I respect this country very much."
Among celebrants of the Islam Day were Michael and Tami Ulanski.
Michael, who served two military tours in Iraq, reverted to Islam last April after reading the Qur’an for the first time to understand the nature of the conflict in Iraq.
"I started reading it and Chapter One, it just hit me,” he said.
“It grabbed me and everything about it made sense..
"It struck me as the right thing so I just kept at it and I kept studying it and reading it and decided after a month or two that that was the right thing for me."
Michael’s wife, Tami who is Catholic, says she attended the Islam Day to better understand Muslims as her husband did.
"I came to see what it's all about, what he feels so strongly about," she said.
"I don't know enough or am educated enough about it. It's an adjustment."
US Muslims Pray for One Nation, One God
WASHINGTON -- On the west lawn of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., facing the steps where President Barack Obama took his oath nine months ago, thousands of Muslims gathered to showcase their oneness as Muslims, Americans and humans in an event devoid of speakers and political agendas.
"We came here today to remind ourselves of the oneness of Allah, the oneness of humanity, and the oneness we all share," Imam Abdul Malik said in a qutbah (sermon) before leading the huge congregation in the Jummah (Friday) prayers.
"America, this is our country. We are with you. Muslims have been blessed tremendously living in the gates of North America, and it's our time to give back," he stressed.
"We came today to let the world knows what we believe Allah as one, and we seek common ground with all people to live in harmony and peace. … We must recognize that every life is sacred. Every human is sacred."
The Day of Prayer, spearheaded by Dar-ul-Salam mosque in Elizabeth, New Jersey, attracted upwards of 3,000 Muslims in a first-of-its-kind-gathering on the lawn in front of the iconic Capitol building.
The program started with Fajr (down) prayers, included tours of various Washington institutions and ended with the Friday prayers, which included recitation of the Qur’an by two prominent Qaaris, an energetic sermon by Imam Malik, the adan (call to prayer) ringing out, and Jummah prayers.
Syed Husain, a retired employee of the National Institutes of Health, attended the spiritual gathering to be "part of the message".
He believes Imam Malik’s qutbah conveyed the proper Islamic viewpoint in the most powerful way.
"He presented Islam in the clearest way I’ve ever heard: What Islam teaches and what Islam represents, how we believe in all prophets and their prophecies and their missions," he told IslamOnline.net.
"He talked about the oneness of God very clearly."
Malik Ali, who attended the Jummah prayers with his son, says the attitude during the event was very positive.
"There was a great a spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood."
Husain, the retired employee, was disappointed with the lack of publicity about the event and the poor turnout of local Muslims from mosques in the Maryland-Washington, D.C.-Virginia communities.
"I don’t understand it, really. Perhaps they weren’t contacted by the events’ coordinators."
The organizers had expected to draw 50,000 Muslims.
"So many of you are afraid to be here on Capitol Hill," Imam Malik said, addressing himself to Muslims who had been skeptical about the motives of the event and how it was organized by one New Jersey mosque.
"What is there to be afraid of? You have friends here on Capitol Hill. Non-Muslim people helped us to make this event even when there were Muslims who were afraid," he asserted.
"Stop being so scared! Just do the work of Allah, and believe."
His advice came on the heels of the recent arrests of several Muslim men, including a local imam, on terror charges as well as growing verbal attacks from conservative Christian groups in wake of President Obama’s forays into Muslim diplomacy.
Robert Salam, a prominent American-Muslim blogger and online radio host, said the lack of local participation was one of the key reasons he decided not to attend the event.
"I opted for the path of least resistance," he told IOL.
He was also worried about having to explain protests against the event to his children.
"But what solidified it for me was that I wanted to see what area Muslims were doing. I hadn’t heard anything from the local masjids or that the imams of these masjids were going to attend this event."
Though protests by various Christian groups did occur, they were kept to the fringes of the event where Muslims were entering and exiting the prayer area.
But Saadia Husain, who came to the prayer on her lunch break, said the protestors were not nearly as numerous as projected by media reports prior to the event.
"There were some who were yelling disrespectful things about Muslims, but when we stood for prayer, you couldn’t really hear them," she said.
"The day was really beautiful and it felt good to be there. It was fascinating to see all those hijabs in one place. People were popping their heads out of the nearby buildings to watch what was going on."
Salaam admits that after seeing how smoothly everything went, he felt a little regret for not attending and bringing his sons along.
"Yes, I still think it could’ve been better organized, but the spirit of the event, the focus on prayer was good," he said.
"At the end of the day we just want to show non-Muslim Americans how we are part of this country’s fabric: The doctors they see, the teachers their kids have, lots of them are Muslim," Salaam noted..
"These Muslims don’t shove the Qur’an in [non-Muslims’] faces. But they do their job and they go home and pray. That’s who Americans need to see."
Malik Ali, who attended the Day of Prayer with his son, says American Muslims, estimated at nearly seven millions, don’t need to be afraid.
"We don’t need to hide our names," he told IOL.
"Muslims in America are not going anywhere. We came over here on slave ships and from different countries, and we’re here to stay," Ali added confidently.
"We just need to stay positive."
Calling 50,000 Muslims to Prayer on Capitol Hill
Poll: 58% believe Muslims face discrimination
Detroit -- Eight years after the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks, Americans know more about Islam, which may be helping foster more favorable views about Muslims, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center.
At the same time, the survey found Americans believe Muslims in the United States face more discrimination than any other major religious group. Six in 10 adults in the United States say Muslims are subjected to far more discrimination than evangelical Christians, Jews, Mormons or atheists, according to the study, released Wednesday.
In the annual survey, 58 percent of Americans said there was "a lot" of discrimination against Muslims. Jews were seen as the religious group with the next highest level of bias against them, with 35 percent saying they faced a lot of discrimination. Homosexuals were the only group seen as facing more discrimination than Muslims, with almost two-thirds of Americans saying homosexuals are discriminated against a lot.
The Pew results are not surprising to Dawud Walid, Council on American-Islamic Relations -- Michigan executive director.
"Discrimination towards Muslims has steadily increased according to our own study, Walid said. "It seems Islam-phobia has drastically increased."
Walid says his organization is trying to bridge the gap in understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims through a campaign called Share the Quran campaign, which seeks to enhance understanding of Islam.
The survey of 2,010 adults around the country was conducted Aug. 11-17.
In another study released Wednesday, University of Michigan researchers found Arab and Chaldean communities face an unusual degree of discrimination and acceptance in Metro Detroit
Amal Neimer, a Dearborn bakery owner, said she believes the discrimination against Muslims locally is no longer a problem.
"I don't know about the rest of the country, but people in the area seem to be more open about our culture," Neimer said.
U-M researcher Wayne Baker, co-author of the book "Citizenship and Crisis: Arab Detroit After 9-11" said, "Discrimination against Arabs and Muslims in America persists because it reflects persisting political struggles and conflicts in the Middle East. "Many Americans link Arab-Americans with the idea that they are, or are identified with, the "enemy."
CIA reaches out to Muslims
CIA Director Leon Panetta plans to visit Dearborn on Sept. 16 for an invitation-only dinner and speech with 150 leaders of the Arab and Muslim communities, officials confirmed Tuesday.
The visit comes amid an unprecedented outreach effort by the Central Intelligence Agency and as Panetta seeks to double the number of CIA analysts who are proficient in Arabic and other Mideast languages.
But the date chosen for the meeting -- the 27th night of Ramadan or "night of power," when many devout Muslims and imams spend the entire night worshiping in the mosque -- is drawing criticism.
"They picked the entirely wrong night on this," said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "This is our leading intelligence agency who doesn't know this."
Imad Hamad, regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Dearborn, acknowledged the sensitivity of the night but said he and other community leaders, not the CIA, should take any blame because the agency consulted with the community before choosing the date.
"It's a simple miscall," said Hamad, who added that most Muslims would break their fast before going to the mosque on the night of power.
Once among the most secret of agencies, the CIA has been setting up booths at events in Dearborn and Detroit and spending tens of thousands of dollars annually sponsoring galas and other events and scholarships. CIA spokesman George Little said Tuesday the agency's outreach to "first- and second-generation Americans" in Dearborn and elsewhere began about five years ago.
"These individuals have the kinds of skills, knowledge and experiences that can strongly advance our vital intelligence mission and protect the nation's security," Little said. "The number of job applications from the Detroit area has risen steadily over that time period."
Among U.S. Religious Groups, Muslims Seen as Facing More Discrimination
Eight years after the terrorist
attacks of 9/11, Americans see Muslims as facing more discrimination inside
the U.S. than other major religious groups. Nearly six-in-ten adults say that
Muslims are subject to a lot of discrimination, far more than say the same
about Jews, evangelical Christians, atheists or Mormons, according to a new
report based on a recent national survey by the Pew Research Center's Forum on
Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.
In fact, of all the groups asked about, only gays and lesbians are seen as
facing more discrimination than Muslims.
Results from the national survey, conducted Aug. 11-17 among 2,010 adults,
reveal that two-thirds of non-Muslims say that Islam and their own faith are
either very different or somewhat different, while just 17% take the view that
Islam and their own religion are somewhat or very similar. Majorities also see
Mormonism, Buddhism and Hinduism as mostly different from their own beliefs.
Other findings include:
-- High levels of perceived similarity with religious groups are
with more favorable views of those groups. Those who see their own
as similar to Catholicism, Judaism, Mormonism and Islam are
significantly more likely than others to have favorable views of
of these groups.
-- A plurality of the public (45%) says Islam is no more likely than
faiths to encourage violence among its believers, compared with 38%
say that Islam does encourage violence more than other religions.
-- Almost half of Americans (45%) say they personally know someone who is
-- Slim majorities of the public are able to correctly identify Allah as
the name Muslims use to refer to God (53%) and the Koran as the name
Islam's sacred text (52%), with four-in-ten (41%) able to identify
both Allah and the Koran.
-- Those people who are most familiar with Muslims and knowledgeable
Islam are least likely to see Islam as encouraging violence, most
to express favorable views of Muslims and most inclined to see
similarities between Islam and their own religion.
The report, including a detailed executive summary, methodology and topline
questionnaire, is available online (http://pewforum.org/docs/?DocID=436)
Additional results from the survey will be released in subsequent reports.
This survey is a joint effort of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and
the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. Both are projects of the
Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan "fact tank" that provides information on
the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world.
SOURCE Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life
More know about Islam, fewer think it's violent
Americans are learning more about Islam, and familiarity with the faith makes people more likely to view Muslims favorably and less likely to believe Islam encourages violence, according to a new study.
The survey by the Pew Research Center also showed that Americans still believe Muslims face far more discrimination than the nation's other religious groups.
The findings can be linked because increased knowledge about Muslims is tied to more sensitivity about bias they face, said Greg Smith, the report's senior researcher.
"To say that Muslims are discriminated against ... it's not the same thing as expressing an unfavorable view of Muslims. In fact it's just the opposite," he said. "People who are most sympathetic to a group are more likely to see that group as being discriminated against."
In the annual survey released Wednesday, 58% of Americans said there was "a lot" of discrimination against Muslims. Jews were seen as the religious group with the next highest level of bias against them, with 35% saying they faced a lot of discrimination.
Homosexuals were the only group seen as facing more discrimination than Muslims, with almost two-thirds of Americans saying homosexuals are discriminated against a lot.
According to the Pew survey, belief among Americans that Islam encourages violence has fluctuated since the Sept. 11 attacks, and was at its lowest level — a quarter of those surveyed — in March after the terror strikes.
By 2007, 45% of Americans believed Islam was more likely than other faiths to encourage violence. This year, that number fell to 38%. The group most likely to say Islam encourages violence this year was conservative Republicans, at 55%. But that dropped 13% from two years ago, making them the group with the biggest change of opinion since 2007.
Poll: Muslim Americans Still Struggle for Acceptance
Eight years after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, Muslim Americans — particularly Muslim-American women — continue to face battles in their struggle for acceptance and the right to wear religious garb in public settings. A new poll from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life finds that Americans see Muslims as encountering more discrimination than any other religious group. But while Americans are more likely to be familiar with Islam or personally know a Muslim than they were at the time of the attacks, levels of tolerance are lower today than they were in the months immediately following Sept. 11.
It may be difficult to remember now, but just days after the attacks in New York City and Washington, President George W. Bush went out of his way to remind Americans not to confuse ordinary Muslims with the handful of terrorists who committed the violence. "We should not hold one who is a Muslim responsible for an act of terror," Bush said on Sept. 13, 2001.
The message appeared to sink in. A Pew Forum poll conducted that November found that only 17% of Americans held unfavorable views of Muslim Americans, a decrease from 24% just eight months earlier. The shift was most striking among conservative Republicans — in March 2001, 40% viewed Muslim Americans unfavorably, but by November, that number had plummeted by more than half to 19%. In the wake of the attacks, Americans were also reluctant to say that Islam encourages violence more than other faiths; only one-quarter agreed with that statement in March 2002. But by the time the war in Iraq began one year later, that view had changed dramatically, with 44% of Americans willing to associate Islam with violence.