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9227Islam and Muslims in USA: I Am a Muslimerican

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  • Zafar Khan
    Jan 23, 2011
      I Am a Muslimerican
      Qasim Basir
      Posted: August 19, 2010 06:02 PM


      While standing in line at the airport, it's no longer a question. I approach the counter and immediately tell them to call their manager because they'll need extra approval to allow me on the plane. When finally in my seat answering a phone call, the looks I get from surrounding passengers as I greet with "Asalamu Alaikum" is a type of fear that I've never seen, one that cannot possibly be sustained in the face of all that this nation is up against.

      Mosque milestone for Alaska Muslims
      As the Muslim community in Alaska grows over 3,000, donations help start state's first mosque.


      Waiting for a home in paradise
      Michelle Theriault | Dec 7, 2010


      Fifteen years ago Anchorage was home to fewer than 200 Muslims. Today, the city boasts three Halal grocery stores, a Halal-by-request pizzeria and a population of more than 3,000 Muslims who hail from places like Albania, Somalia, Pakistan and Malaysia.

      In October the community realized a long-held goal by breaking ground on Alaska's first mosque, which will occupy a lot off of the Old Seward Highway with sweeping views of the Chugach Mountains. The mosque, according to a building permit filed with the city in August, will be 16,523 square feet and carry a construction value of about $2.9 million. Leaders have said they hope to open doors in 2011.

      The Islamic Community Center of Anchorage Alaska, as it will be called, will be one the farthest north mosques in the world. A mosque that went up recently in Inuvik, a village in the Northwest Territories, Canada, claims to be the world's most northern mosque. It's also historic: Alaska currently doesn't have a formal Muslim place of worship.

      It's also ambitious. A 3-D rendering of the planned building shows a gleaming white building with a dome and minarets that organizers say will house an Islamic and secular school, prayer and event spaces, a library, nursery and center for interfaith dialogue that will offer classes on Islam to non-Muslim community members.

      But in the wake of bruising national controversy over a mosque in Lower Manhattan, the leaders behind the mosque are wary of talking about it.

      A community without a home

      For years, the Islamic Community Center of Anchorage Alaska, the city's predominant Islamic group, has gathered its members in borrowed places.

      Prayer services and lectures are held in a small storefront on West International Airport Road, a strip mall space sandwiched between a party supply store and a Spanish-language academy. The rented space has just enough space for prayer carpets and a small speakers' podium. At most, it can accommodate 200 people.

      For bigger celebrations, the community rents space at recreation centers in Spenard or Fairview. At a recent potluck celebrating Eid-Al-Adha, an important religious celebration following the end of the Hajj pilgrimage, tables at the rented Asian Alaskan Cultural Center were heavy with lamb curries and fragrant spiced rice dishes.

      It's time for Alaska's Muslims to have a permanent home, says Umal Samatar, who owns Juba Halal Market, one of three markets in the city that specialize in Islamic groceries and goods. Her East Anchorage shop is stocked with colorful headscarves, phone cards, spices like fenugreek and whole cardamom pods and freezers full of specially-prepared Halal meat. In her few years in Anchorage she's seen a steady flood of Muslim migrants, many of whom come from her home country of Somalia.

      "I (opened the store) to feel at home," she says.

      She thinks the mosque will help others to feel at home, too.

      "They will gather and enjoy," she says. "Just like other people do. In Anchorage we have all different people -- Samoans, Native -- it's the same thing. This will be a place for church."

      Alaska a welcoming home for Muslims

      Lamin Jobarteh, the current president of the ICCAA and a longtime champion of the mosque, owns one of the city's other Halal grocery stores. Alaska Halal Grocery sits across the parking lot from the strip mall rental currently used for prayer space. On this winter afternoon, it's warm and cozy inside and "Judge Judy" is on the TV.

      Jobarteh says the leadership of the mosque project would rather not comment for the story, citing a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment in the Lower 48. Alaska has been a welcoming and tolerant home for Muslims, says Jobarteh, who left the West African nation of Gambia during a time of political instability and first came to Alaska to attend graduate school. In the wake of controversy over the Park51 mosque in New York, people have called and left messages on the Islamic Community Center's answering machine voicing support and "just letting us know they were there," he says.

      The Anchorage Police Department even checked in to make sure everything was fine

      But that hasn't been the case everywhere. Just a day earlier a mosque in Corvallis, Ore., where a terror suspect had attended services was firebombed, he says.

      The Alaska Muslim community has long decried extremism. When Paul Rockwood Jr., a King Salmon meteorologist and Muslim convert who had attended Friday prayers was arrested for allegedly lying to the FBI about a jihadist hit list earlier this year, Jobarteh told an Alaska Dispatch reporter that Rockwood wasn't representative of the community.

      "He's not part of our community here," he said at the time. "If what they're saying is true, nobody should have any sympathy for this guy."

      Opposition has blocked mosques in other states

      Still, Islamic community leaders' fears of backlash are justified, says Heather L. Weaver, a lawyer with the ACLU's Program on Religious Freedom and Belief. In the past five years there have been more than 50 anti-mosque incidents nationwide: From Washington to Florida, Muslim places of worship have been firebombed, vandalized and threatened. Meanwhile, recent controversy over Park51, a planned 13-story Islamic and interfaith community center near the World Trade Center site in New York, reached a fever pitch during the fall election cycle.

      Planned mosques and community centers have also increasingly been the target of efforts to block or deny construction permits. In a recent Mayfield, Ky., case, the town's zoning board refused to permit an Islamic prayer space proposed by a group of Somalis, citing "inadequate parking" while 250 local residents looked on and cheered, according to the Paducah Sun newspaper. The ACLU intervened, and the zoning board ultimately couldn't legally justify denying the permit.

      Unchecked, such incidents could lead to a chilling effect on Muslims' efforts to build houses of worship, Weaver said.

      "One additional consequence of these efforts to block mosque construction has been that some Muslims have been fearful to be involved more in the community," Weaver said. "There have been several instances where a group obtained land or made plans and because of opposition didn't follow through with those plans."

      For their part, Anchorage's Muslim leaders say they they'll welcome the community to their new mosque -- when the project is a just bit further along. Today the lot is snow-covered and quiet. And the Islamic center still has money to raise to make the mosque reality. For now, they're reaching out with their latest fundraising video, "A House in Paradise," which features photos of fireweed-and-mountain vistas and an appeal to help Alaska's Muslims, at long last, build their own house in paradise.

      Shariah at the Kumback Café
      Published: December 6, 2010


      PERRY, OKLAHOMA — They call Oklahoma the buckle of the Bible Belt. It’s the state where all 77 counties voted Republican when Barack Obama was elected and where 70.8 percent of the electorate last month approved a “Save Our State Amendment” banning Islamic, or Shariah, law.

      So I decided to check the pulse of a resurgent conservative America at the Kumback Café. The Kumback, established 1926, is a cozy, memorabilia-filled joint that sits opposite the courthouse in downtown Perry, population 5,230.

      Things work like this at the Kumback: The guys, average age about 80, arrive around 8 a.m. and get talking on “the whole gamut of life”; the girls, average age too indelicate to print, gather later at a horse-shoe shaped table toward the back. Ken Sherman, 86 and spry, explained: “We’ve got to come here every day to find out what’s going on. And by the time we leave we forget.”

      Time for FBI to stop spying on American Muslims
      Elaborate sting operations not only risk entrapment of bogus terrorist suspects, but worse, they wreck vital community trust


      Mosque shuns FBI informant
      FBI practices draw criticism as a former informant sues the bureau, raising further questions among American Muslims.
      Last Modified: 07 Dec 2010 08:33 GMT


      The counter-terrorism practices of the FBI have once more been placed under the spotlight, as a former informant seeks legal action against the bureau, the Washington Post reported.

      A story first reported by Al Jazeera 16 months ago; the FBI informant attempted to infiltrate an Islamic community centre located in Irvine, California. Scaring Muslim worshippers to such an extent - with his talk of violent jihad - that they proceeded to take out a restraining order against him.

      However, the FBI claims its use of such informants has prevented a host of further attacks since the events of September 11, 2001.

      The latest case follows revelations that a man who tried to bomb a Christmas event in Portland, Oregon, did so not only whilst under FBI surveillance, but had been provided with fake explosives by its undercover agents.

      Making matters worse for the agency, Craig Monteilh, the convicted fraudster whom the FBI sent into the mosque to spy on its members, has gone public in suing the investigative agency.

      Yet its officials have said that they do not target Muslims - an argument that has long been taken with a dose of scepticism by Muslim communities across the length and breadth of the United States.

      The two cases are reviving criticisms over the government agency's apparent surveillance of Muslims in the US.

      Southern Californian Muslim community leaders have expressed outrage over the FBI's methods, saying it undermines any efforts to build trust.

      "The community feels betrayed," Shakeel Syed, the executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, told the Post.

      "They got a guy, a bona fide criminal, and obviously trained him and sent him to infiltrate mosques," Syed was quoted as saying. "And when things went sour, they ditched him and he got mad. It's like a soap opera, for God's sake."

      FBI informant scares Muslim suspects so much with his talk of violent jihad that they report HIM to authorities


      US targeted killings 'allowed'
      A judge upholds US plans to kill American citizens like Anwar al-Awlaki outside of war zones in certain circumstances.


      Muslims condemn terrorism
      Posted 1 month ago


      In a recent intercultural meeting a friendly gentleman sitting next to me expressed his wish to see Muslims, especially Canadian Muslims, take a stand against terrorism and condemn it. He mentioned that this would be a positive step to create trust for Muslims and let everybody live comfortably with each other free of fear and suspicion. In respecting the wish of this gentleman, and in an attempt to provide relevant information for all those concerned about this issue, I will briefly outline some of the responses made by Muslims in this regard.

      To start with, immediately after 9/11 our centre, then on Pitt Street, issued a press release, "Terrorism is un-Islamic." This document, quoted in an article in the Sept. 22 Standard-Freeholder stated, among other things, that "terrorism is un-Islamic and irreconcilable with the specific teachings of Islam, which forbid the targeting and killing of innocent civilians. Terrorism is also contrary to the spirit of Islam that is peace." And "although some terrorists might be devout believers of their respective faiths, they are, nonetheless, misguided in their choice of actions.
      Bin Laden is no more representative of Muslims than Timothy McVeigh was representative of Christians." Moreover, ever since I was given the privilege to write this column, I have repeated this condemnation in many different contexts pertaining to different issues.

      In the US, the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has constantly voiced its condemnation of terrorism in official statements and press releases. The following is a sample of their statements:

      CAIR condemns "barbaric" London Terror Attacks July 7, 2005

      CAIR condemns attack on Seattle Jewish Center July 29, 2006

      CAIR condemns Iraq church bombings Aug. 1, 2004

      CAIR condemns killing of British hostage in Iraq Oct. 8, 2004

      In Canada, the Canadian Chapter of the Council for American-Islamic Relations has not only endorsed the statements of CAIR, but has added its own statements condemning terrorism. For example:

      CAIR-CAN condemns vandalism of Jewish homes in Toronto March 19, 2004

      CAIR-CAN condemns Daniel Pearl killing Feb. 22, 2002

      CAIR-CAN condemns bomb attack on Passover celebration in Israel March 28, 2002

      CAIR-CAN condemns firebomb attack of Jewish school April 6, 2004

      Muslim scholars and religious leaders from all over the Muslim world have been outspoken against the un-Islamic nature of terrorism and have been unanimous in unconditionally condemning it, among them Shaykh Muhammad Sayyed Tartawi, Grand Shaykh of Al-Azhar University in Egypt, Shaykh Abdul-Aziz Aali-Shaykh, Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Shaykh Salah al-Lahidan, head of the Islamic Judiciary of Saudi Arabia and Shaykh Yusuf Qaradawi, the prominent Muslim scholar and jurist from Qatar.

      Immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Muslim charity organizations such as "Global Relief Foundation," "Islamic Relief" and "Mercy USA" raised donations and tried their best to be of service and assistance to the victims of these attacks.

      There have been many more Muslim scholars, academics and imams, in North America, Europe as well as Muslim countries in Africa and the Middle East, who have voiced their condemnation of extremism and terrorism, and have offered a genuine Islamic perspective on these issues.

      Those interested can visit http://www.muhajabah.com/otherscondemn. php for a more comprehensive list as well as text of these statements.

      Mosque gains commission's approval