Islamophobia in America: Mother says school ignored bully attacks on her son
- Mother says school ignored bully attacks on her son
11-year-old beaten twice at Los Alamitos middle school says he is ridiculed for being Persian
By JAIMEE LYNN FLETCHER
The Orange County Register
LOS ALAMITOS The mother of a boy who attends Oak Middle School said Los Alamitos Unified School District ignored her pleas to discipline bullies who she says beat up her son at least twice, leaving the sixth-grader with a concussion, bruises and scratches.
School officials say they always examine claims of bullying and conduct extensive investigations.
Violet Raminfard said she is desperate for help after multiple attempts appealing to Oak Middle School officials and the district to stop the attacks on her son, Bernard Ramin.
"I don't know where else to turn," Raminfard said. "Nobody will help me."
While district officials said they cannot talk about specific cases because the children involved are minors, Assistant Superintendent Sherry Kropp said bullying issues are never ignored.
"I am not ignoring any parent and we are investigating all claims of bullying," Kropp said. "We certainly, as a district, take bullying extremely seriously and we have a long-standing record of discipline (in these cases)."
Raminfard said her son has been the victim of relentless attacks by a group of bullies at Oak Middle School. They steal her son's school supplies and physical education clothes, tease him and push him around, she said.
"They call my son a nerd but he is not a nerd, he is a sweet boy," she said.
She said school officials told her Bernard instigates the conflicts but she says her son is continuously harassed.
"They blame it on my son but this is not his fault," she said.
Bernard said boys in his class ridicule him because he is Persian.
"They say I have a big nose and tell me Persians are extinct," he said. "They call me a penny-Jew and make fun of my name."
But the teasing took a violent twist May 21 when Bernard said he was cornered in the school bathroom and beaten.
The sixth grader went to the bathroom between classes and a group of students followed him in, closed the door and guarded it, he said.
The bully was being encouraged to assault Bernard by a group of his classmates and some eighth graders, the boy said.
He tried to fight back and push the bully away but a blow to his left temple that "felt like a baseball bat hitting the side of (his) head" buckled his knees and he curled up on the ground while the bully continued to kick him, Bernard said.
"He punched me so hard in the head that the other side of my head hit the wall and I passed out," he said.
Bernard said he and the bully were both suspended for fighting but his attempts to seek help from school officials went unanswered.
"They think I'm exaggerating," he said. "They said I started it, that I punched him but all I did was push him away. … I was sick of him hit hitting me."
Bernard returned home with swollen eyes, visible bruises and complaints of dizziness. He told his mother he thought he had been knocked unconscious.
His mother immediately took him to the doctor and it was reported he suffered a concussion, according to a medical release from Kaiser Permanente. Bernard continues to seek medical help for ongoing headaches and disorientation, the report shows.
Bernard said after the first attack another boy in the group brought a butter knife to school and flashed it at him saying, "I'm going to kill you."
He said he doesn't believe the teachers and administrators realize the seriousness of these threats. Bernard added that when he goes to teachers for help they instruct the students to keep away from one another or say they will take the issue to the principal, "but they never do anything about it."
His mother went to the principal's office to complain about the attack and threats and asked to speak to the parents of the bullies but she was turned down, she said.
"Every time I go in there, they ignore me," she said. "They always push me away."
An incident June 9 prompted Raminfard to take her complaints to the next level.
Her son returned home with bruises and a cut on his left leg. Bernard told his mother another bully from the same group of boys had thrown a broken beer bottle at him after school, she said.
Raminfard again went to school offices but said her claims were dismissed, so she contacted the district.
Kropp said the school has a strict investigation policy in bully cases. The students involved, parents and student witnesses are interviewed and adults at the school are put on watch to keep an eye on the child who may have been a target.
The district also works with the school's principal and follows up with each case, Kropp said. Students who bully can be suspended or expelled.
"We really go the extra mile to investigate such matters," she said.
Los Alamitos police confirmed Raminfard has filed two police reports on the incidents but they would not comment on the complaints because they are under investigation.
Raminfard said she feels the threat to her son is imminent and administrators aren't giving enough credence to her son's claims.
"He has come home and said he wanted to kill himself because he is scared to go back to school," she said. "This has really affected his grades and his attitude."
Oak Middle School let out for summer break June 18 and Raminfard said she is unsure if her son will return in the fall.
Raminfard said she received a phone call Friday from the district shortly after a call was put in by the Register inquiring about the situation. District officials this week set up a meeting with Raminfard on Thursday.
"I knew they were going to wait until school was out because now there is nothing they can do," she said.
Raminfard lives in Anaheim but her children attend Los Alamitos schools because she works as a caregiver in the city and wanted to be close to her children. She said changing schools does not solve the problem.
"I am really afraid and I'm so worried. I can't sleep. I've become my son's shadow," she said. "I cannot fight for my son."
A recent article by The Orange County Register prompted Raminfard to contact the media. Daniel Mendez, 16, of San Clemente High School, was found May 1 in his home with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head.
Mendez's parents have filed a $3 million lawsuit against the Capistrano Unified School District alleging Mendez was bullied and school officials did not intervene.
"Everything I read in that story is what is happening to my son, all the same signs are there," Raminfard said. "I do not want to see my son's picture end up in the paper like that."
Contact the writer: 949-553-2932 or jfletcher@...
Islamophobia Bullying becoming more common in US Schools
Secretive U.S. Prison Units Used to House Muslim, Animal Rights and Environmental Activists
The government is using secretive prison facilities on U.S. soil, called Communication Management Units, to house inmates accused of being tied to “terrorism” groups. They overwhelmingly include Muslim inmates, along with at least two animal rights and environmental activists.
Little information is available about the secretive facilities and the prisoners housed there. However, through interviews with attorneys, family members, and a current prisoner, it is clear that these units have been created not for violent and dangerous “terrorists,” but for political cases that the government would like to keep out of the public spotlight and out of the press.
OPENED QUIETLY AND PERHAPS ILLEGALLY
In April of 2006, the Department of Justice proposed a new set of rules to restrict the communication of “terrorist” inmates. The proposal did not make it far, though: during the required public comment period, the ACLU and other civil rights groups raised Constitutional concerns. The program was too sweeping, they said, and it could wrap up non-terrorists and those not even convicted of a crime.
The Bureau of Prisons dropped the proposal. Or so it seemed. Just a few months later, a similar program (now called the Communication Management Unit, or CMU), was quietly opened by the Justice Department at Terre Haute, Ind.
Then, in May of 2008, a handful of inmates were moved, without warning, to what is believed to be the second CMU in the country, at Marion, Il.
Both CMUs are “self-contained” housing units, according to prison documents, for prisoners who “require increased monitoring of communication” in order to “protect the public.”
WHO IS HOUSED AT CMUs?
The CMUs are less restrictive than, say, ADX Florence, the notorious supermax prison for the most dangerous inmates. The supermax holds al-Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui and Unabomber Theodore J. Kaczynski.
CMU inmates stand in sharp contrast to the Moussaouis and Kaczynskis of the world, though.
They include Rafil A. Dhafir, an Iraqi-born physician who created a charity called Help the Needy to provide food and medicine to the people of Iraq suffering under the U.S.-imposed economic sanctions. He was sentenced to 22 years in prison for violating the sanctions.
They include Daniel McGowan, an environmental activist sentenced to seven years in prison for a string of property crimes in the name of defending the environment. He was previously at FCI-Sandstone, a low-security facility, and was transferred without notice to the CMU, and told it was not for any disciplinary reason.
And, until recently, they included Andrew Stepanian. Stepanian was convicted of conspiring to commit “animal enterprise terrorism” and shut down the notorious animal testing laboratory Huntingdon Life Sciences, in a landmark First Amendment case pending appeal. The government’s case focused on a controversial website run by an activist group that published news of both legal and illegal actions against the laboratory. He was sentenced to three years in prison, and is currently on house arrest in New York City. Stepanian is believed to be the first prisoner ever released from a CMU.
VIOLATION OF DUE PROCESS RIGHTS
Attorneys and prisoners have said that inmates are transferred to the CMUs without notice and without opportunity to challenge their new designation, in what seems to be a clear violation of their due process rights.
“No one got a hearing to determine whether we should or should not be transferred here,” said Daniel McGowan in a letter from the CMU in Marion, Ill.
Similarly, Rafil A. Dhafir said in a letter to his family from the CMU in Terre Haute, Ind., that he was put in isolation for two days before the move. “No one seems to know about this top-secret operation until now,” he wrote. “It is still not fully understood… The staff here is struggling to make sense of the whole situation.”
“We are told this is an experiment,” Dhafir says. “So the whole concept is evolving on a daily basis.”
OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND
The CMU “experiment” limits prisoner contact with the outside world through a list of restrictive policies. According to prison documents giving a skeleton of CMU policies, called institution supplements, they include:
Phone calls: Only one phone call per week, limited to 15 minutes, live-monitored by staff and law enforcement (according to attorneys, this includes the NSA) and scheduled one and half weeks in advance. It must be conducted in English. Other prisoners get about 300 minutes a month.
Mail: All mail must be reviewed by staff prior to delivery to the inmate or processing at the post office. This means significant delays in communications (and, in my personal experience, letters frequently not being received by inmates).
Visits: Four hours of personal visits per month, non-contact, behind glass, and live-monitored by staff and law enforcement. It must be conducted in English. By comparison, at FCI Sandstone (where McGowan was previously housed) prisoners can receive 56 potential visiting hours per month. I have learned from attorneys and prisoners that when a CMU inmate is transferred to the visiting room, the entire facility goes on lock-down.
For many inmates in federal prisons, phone calls, mail and visits are flecks of light in the darkness. Virtually eliminating all contact with family, friends and the outside world can have a devastating psychological impact on prisoners, and raises serious concerns about basic human rights.
Judge: Christian group can't walk with literature at Arab festival in Michigan
By David N. Goodman
Posted: 06/18/2009 02:16:55 PM PDT
Updated: 06/18/2009 02:16:55 PM PDT
DETROIT — A federal judge today denied an evangelical Christian group's request for permission to hand out literature on sidewalks at an Arab festival in the heart of the Detroit area's Middle Eastern community.
U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds denied Anaheim, Calif.-based Arabic Christian Perspective's request for a temporary restraining order.
The group describes itself in its court filing as "a national ministry established for the purpose of proclaiming the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ to Muslims ... (that) travels around the country attending and distributing Christian literature at Muslim festivals and mosques."
A lawyer for the group said it would seek a permanent injunction against the city of Dearborn.
"It's not over," said Robert J. Muise of the Thomas More Law Center, an Ann Arbor-based Christian rights advocacy group.
Another lawyer on the case said the Dearborn officials action could be part of what he described as a broader Muslim legal attack on critics of Islam in our "Judeo-Christian nation."
"Muslims are using the courts in this country to stop our free speech rights," said William J. Becker Jr., a Los Angeles attorney who has represented a number of prominent critics of Islam.
The 14th annual Dearborn Arab International Festival is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors Friday through Sunday to the city that has the Detroit area's greatest concentration of Arab-Americans.
Festival organizer Fay Beydoun said the evangelical group was being offered a good spot in an area with a number of other religious, nonprofit and political groups.
"You have to pass right in front of it to get anywhere," said Beydoun, executive director of the American Arab Chamber of Commerce.
Southeastern Michigan has about 300,000 people with roots in the Arab world. It includes large numbers of both Muslims and Christians.
The group sued Dearborn after police told the Rev. George Saieg members would need to restrict literature distribution to a designated table-and-booth section of the festival site.
The city said safely accommodating the 150,000 daily festival-goers requires limits on where people can leaflet. It said other Christian and Muslim groups already have tables and booths for distributing material at the festival.
City officials say anyone is free to have conversations — but not leaflet — on sidewalks within the festival's barricades.
"It appears to be a legitimate governmental interest for crowd control and safety," Edmunds said in denying the request. "The festival area is more akin to a fair than a normal city street."
Becker said the case is similar to one he handled in Los Angeles, in which Jews for Jesus member Cyril Gordon won about $250,000 after being arrested for trespassing in 2006 outside an Israel Independence Day event in a park.
"This is a case where your right, my right and anybody's right to walk down the street and express their views is being disrupted by a police action," he said.
An official of the Council of American-Islamic Relations said Arabic Christian Perspective was asking for special treatment.
"They should abide by the rules and purchase a booth like the other religious groups," said Dawud Walid, executive director of the group's Michigan chapter. "Christians can talk about Christianity and Muslims can promote Islam. This is the right we have as Americans.
Assault on Muslim under investigation
By CHRISTINA LANE
Saturday, June 13, 2009
The Upshur County Sheriff's Office is investigating an assault on a Gilmer man who claims he was attacked because he is Muslim, officials said Friday.
Sheriff's investigator Mark Moore said law enforcement officers took a report from James Berry, 34, who claims he was attacked on June 6 at his home. Moore said he could not release details because the investigation is ongoing. He added that the incident has not been ruled a hate crime.
In a news release on Friday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations said Berry, who converted to Islam, reported that two former co-workers punched, choked and kicked him, and used religious slurs. He also said he felt the barrel of a gun pressed to his head and said the attackers threatened to hurt him again if he contacted police, the release stated.
"Because of the religious slurs reportedly used during this attack, and the alleged threat to the victim's life, we urge law enforcement authorities to investigate a possible bias motive and to offer police protection," council spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said.
The council said the FBI is investigating the case. FBI Special Agent Mark White said he could not comment on whether the FBI is involved.
Berry is one of about 2,000 to 3,000 Muslims in East Texas, said Anwar Khalifa of the East Texas Islamic Society.
Berry did not immediately return calls Friday afternoon.
Southwest Mosque Vandalized; Not Considered Hate Crime
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- Three boys were arrested Wednesday for allegedly trespassing onto a mosque and desecrating several religious artifacts.
But the investigation indicates the act was not a hate crime, police said Wednesday night.
The boys did not know they were vandalizing a place of worship, according to Lt. Bill Bailey of the BPD.
The vandals, described by police as three 14-year-old white males, hopped a fence, walked into an open door, and ransacked an office before throwing paint onto a wall and destroying a holy book and scattering leafings across the floor, according to Fakhruddin Shakir of the Anjuman-e-Hakimi Bakersfield Masjid. Someone at the mosque spotted them and called police.
"It was lucky that someone walked in while they were still doing that and they caught them, otherwise they would've put us back quite a bit," Shakir said. There were other things in there made of marble and wood that couldn't have been cleaned and would've caused much more damage."
Workers have been putting the finishing touches on the mosque, which has been under construction for three years, Shakir said. It's unclear how long it might take to clean up the vandalism.
The boys were cited for trespassing and vandalizing a place of worship. The matter will be referred to the District Attorney's office, police said.
Americans 'negative' about Muslims
As Barack Obama, the US president, seeks to mend the image of the US in the Muslim world, a new survey indicates almost half of Americans have a negative opinion about Muslim countries.
The 46 per cent of respondents who held an unfavourable view of Islamic nations was up five per cent from 2002, while just 20 per cent said they held a positive opinion.
"It's pretty difficult to think much about folks that are seriously trying to kill us or kill anybody who doesn't believe the way they do; so, I am not very happy with those folks," Chuck Hauptman, a Billings, Montana resident, told Al Jazeera recently.
Greg Smith, a researcher with the Pew Forum on Religion in Washington, says most Americans' views of Muslims are heavily influenced by what they see on television and read in newspapers.
"The number one answer people give us when we ask them what's most important in shaping their views on Islam is the media," Smith says.
"It's people who have a negative view of Muslims and Islam in particular who are most likely to say their opinion is shaped largely by what they see in the media."
Linked with violence
About 60 per cent of Americans feel that the Muslim world considers itself at war with the US, and there is a widespread impression that Islam encourages violence - 45 per cent of respondents in a 2007 poll associated the religion with violent attacks.
"A lot of people, because of 9/11 and the terrorist era we seem to be in, have generalised all Middle Eastern people as devils," comments Marty Connolly of the Billings research institute.
On the other side, surveys of Muslim countries show only about 25 per cent of people approve of US leadership.
Smith says negative views are most common among Americans who are older, do not have college degrees, and who have never met a Muslim.
"People who say they personally know a Muslim are much more likely to express favourable views of Muslims," he says.
While Obama has made dialogue with Muslim countries a priority for his foreign policy, polls indicate many Americans do not particularly care what Muslims think of the US, or they feel that Muslim opinions do not matter.
A recent trip to the US state of Montana appeared to confirm some of these entrenched attitudes towards Muslims.
"I don't care about co-existence," Montana resident Carroll Broch told Al Jazeera.
"I don't want to co-exist with them. They either accept us or they don't accept us."
U.S. Justice Department: N.J. woman fired for wearing Muslim head scarf
by Joe Ryan/The Star-Ledger
Monday June 08, 2009, 6:51 PM
NEWARK -- The Justice Department filed a lawsuit today accusing Essex County officials of illegally firing a Muslim corrections officer for refusing to remove her head scarf.
The suit, filed in federal court in Newark on behalf of Yvette Beshier, asks for a court order forcing the county to accommodate religious observances as part of its uniform code for corrections officers.
"Employees should not have to choose between their religious beliefs and their economic livelihood," said Loretta King, acting assistant attorney general for the civil rights division.
A spokesman for Essex County declined to comment, citing a policy against discussing pending litigation.
Attempts to contact Beshier were unsuccessful. According to property records, she is 44 and lives in East Orange.
The suit accuses Essex County of violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discriminating against employees based on race, color, sex, national origin and religion. The religious discrimination provisions require employers to reasonably accommodate workers' religious observances and practices.
The Essex County Department of Corrections initially suspended Beshier for wearing her head scarf, or khimar, according to the suit. She asked officials to make an exception to the uniform policy, saying her religion required her to wear it, according to the suit.
But the county refused, and eventually Beshier was fired, according to the suit. The lawsuit does not specify when Beshier was hired or fired.
"Federal law requires all employers, even those having policies regarding the wearing of uniforms, to reasonably accommodate the religious observances and practices of their employees," King said.
In February, the Justice Department settled a lawsuit accusing Washington, D.C.'s, transit agency of discriminating against a woman who refused to wear pants, citing her Apostolic Pentecostal faith.
In 2000, New Jersey's Department of Corrections agreed to relax its no-beard policy after 33 Sunni Muslim corrections officers filed suit.
Cleared of Terror Charges, Facing Deportation
By DAMIEN CAVE
Published: June 3, 2009
MOORE HAVEN, Fla. — Youssef Samir Megahed toyed with a piece of lint on the other side of the bulletproof glass and described his case as simply “weird.”
In April, a federal jury acquitted him on charges of transporting explosives during a road trip with a friend who had packed model rocket propellants in the trunk. But three days later, in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Tampa, Mr. Megahed was arrested again in connection with the case, this time by immigration authorities.
The new charge is that he “is engaged in or is likely to engage in” terrorist activities, a violation of his legal residency in the United States.
“They just label you a terrorist and that’s it,” said Mr. Megahed, 23, who moved to Florida from Egypt with his family 11 years ago and is being held here at an immigration detention center.
Mr. Megahed is at least the third Florida defendant in three years to be brought up on immigration charges after prosecutors failed to win terrorism convictions in federal court. If convicted of the new charges and deported, he would join thousands of other Muslim and Arab men sent home since Sept. 11, 2001, as part of an extensive law enforcement strategy that relies on the immigration courts to remove potential threats.
Some national security experts say the country is safer without such men, and immigration officials declare the deportations both legal and fair. But with President Obama scheduled to speak in Cairo on Thursday about repairing relations with the Muslim world, Mr. Megahed is being presented by critics of the immigration strategy here and abroad as a test case of the president’s pledge to break with some of the Bush administration’s most unpopular policies.
Egyptian news outlets and blogs have taken up Mr. Megahed’s cause. Several federal jurors who acquitted him have also made the rare move of publicizing their outrage at their verdict’s being second-guessed, while Arab-American groups, civil rights organizations and churches have lobbied the Obama administration for his release.
“We are sending the wrong message to American Muslims and the Muslim world,” said Ramzy Kiliç, executive director of the Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an advocacy group for Muslims. “If Obama really wants to make a new way forward with mutual respect, he has to start here at home.”
Immigration courts have not been central to the prosecution of cases involving terrorism. But in such cases, they share prosecutorial advantages similar to those found in the controversial military tribunals for suspects accused of being foreign fighters.
In immigration courts, for example, hearings can be closed to the public, the burden of proof is lower than in federal court, and a wider scope of evidence, including hearsay, can be used. Michael Wishnie, a law professor at Yale University, said using immigration courts in these cases amounted to “second-class justice” because “the defendant’s rights are reduced.”
In Mr. Megahed’s case, officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement have emphasized that his deportation hearing is a civil, not a criminal, proceeding, possibly with new evidence, and does not amount to “double jeopardy” — the prohibition on trying defendants more than once for the same crime.
“This is nothing new,” said Bill West, chief of national security for immigration enforcement until he retired in 2003. “The concept goes back to Al Capone — get the bad guys any way you can, on any violation you can.”
Still, the main question in the immigration case is essentially the same as it was in the federal trial: Is Mr. Megahed a danger to society, or, as his lawyer argues, is he only “guilty of having stupid friends”?
Mr. Megahed’s legal problems began two years ago on a road trip with Ahmed Mohamed, who, like Mr. Megahed, was Egyptian, Muslim and an engineering student at the University of South Florida. Mr. Megahed said he had known Mr. Mohamed for only a few months before traveling with him in the summer of 2007.
“It was for fun,” Mr. Megahed said in an interview here. “To see the Southeast of the United States.”
They took turns driving north until they reached Goose Creek, S.C., where the police pulled them over for going 60 miles an hour in a 45-m.p.h. zone. One of two deputies involved said he had become suspicious when the men quickly put away a laptop; a recording of the traffic stop captured the officer saying, “I think they’re part of the Taliban.”
The officers searched the trunk and found “several pipe bombs;” more specifically, four pieces of PVC tubing, about 2 to 2.5 inches long and three-quarters of an inch in diameter, which contained sugar, potassium nitrate and cat litter.
Mr. Mohamed told the police they were homemade fireworks — similar recipes can be found online. The authorities charged them with possession of an explosive device, carrying a prison term of up to 15 years. A judge set bail at $500,000 for Mr. Mohamed and $300,000 for Mr. Megahed.
Gilmer Man Says He Was Attacked Because He's Muslim
A Gilmer man says he was beaten by two men who also threatened his life because he is a Muslim. He calls it a hate crime.
This is the first time since Saturday that James Berry has been at home. Friday night he says two drunk former co-workers beat him just inside his front door.
"When I turned this way the other one grabbed me by the neck and took me to the ground," Berry recounted Thursday.
Berry says that's when he felt a gun put to his head.
"I said the words (HIM-DAH-LAH), which means praise God, praise be to Allah, because I thought I was going. The one with the gun said,'Yeah you pray to Allah you Muslim <expletive>, you Muslim piece of <expletive>. Pray to Allah," Berry said.
The Upshur County Sheriff's Department couldn't comment on the ongoing investigation, but Chief Deputy Bobby Sanders did say it was being handled as an assault case. The Council on American Islamic Relations says this is a hate crime.
"This isn't just a simple assault case. This is a case where religious slurs and a bias nature were evident during the assault," said Council Spokesman Ibrahim Hooper from Washington, D.C.
Berry says he doesn't believe Upshur County is taking this seriously so he contacted the FBI, who in turn, have opened their own investigation into the matter. Hopper hopes federal involvement will show the real injustice.
"Once it's investigated as a possible hate crime, we'll see what potential charges could be brought above and beyond the normal charges brought in any assault case and if there's a civil rights violation here that could lead to federal charges," said Hooper.
As Berry patiently awaits word from either authority whether any arrest will be made, he can't help but wonder if the process would've been faster if two Muslims attacked a Christian.
"Muslims would've been paraded in front of the media and thrown under the jail," said Berry.
Study: Hate groups growing rapidly
Thursday, June 4, 2009
By Tricia L. Nadolny
GREENSBORO — The number of hate groups in America is growing rapidly — jumping 50 percent since 2000. In just the past year, more than three dozen groups have joined the list.
Those numbers, from a 2009 Southern Poverty Law Center report, were of particular concern to a group gathered Wednesday night at a forum on hate crimes.
The meeting was held by the Greensboro Human Relations Commission in response to recent reports of incidents involving Yusra Alaqrah. A Muslim woman, Alaqrah said that she has been harassed at her home near the Adams Farm neighborhood for the past three years.
The forum included speakers from four minority groups in Greensboro: Harmohindar Singh, an East Indian; Romallus Murphy, an African American; Maha Zamamiri, a Muslim; and Jose Villalba, a Latino.
Villalba, a member of the commission, said he has heard about various bias incidents in Greensboro, including police checkpoints that appear to be targeted toward Latinos and racial discrimination against children.
Villalba said there is no way to avoid the fact that there is hate in Greensboro.
The only way to address it, he said, is for people to become more self-aware.
“It sickens me that as a community we can’t become more aware,” he said.
“If you don’t like immigrants, do you know why you don’t like them?”
Zamamiri said that while there is a legal definition for a hate crime, on a personal level it is more difficult to pin down.
“Sometimes it’s just a word. 'Hey, terrorist! Go back to your country,’” she said.
The number of hate groups in North Carolina has varied year by year, but since 2003 the state has ranked anywhere from sixth to 11th in the country, with between 28 and 37 active groups, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The report listed three main reasons for the steady increase in hate groups: the immigration debate, the economic recession, and President Barack Obama’s successful campaign.
Anthony Wade, executive director of the Human Relations Commission, said the group plans to hold more community forums.
Contact Tricia Nadolny at 373-7028 or tricia.nadolny@...
Rabbi's comments about Arabs widely rebuked
by Elizabeth Baier, Minnesota Public Radio
June 4, 2009
St. Paul, Minn. — A St. Paul rabbi faced a flurry of criticism this week after an independent Jewish magazine quoted him as saying he advocated killing Arabs and destroying their holy sites.
Rabbi Manis Friedman, of the Bais Chana Institute of Jewish Studies in St. Paul, said "the only way to fight a moral war is the Jewish way: Destroy their holy sites. Kill men, women and children (and cattle)."
His response was part of an article titled "How Should Jews Treat Their Arab Neighbors?" in Moment, a Washington D.C.-based magazine that's part of the Center for Creative Change.
Friedman issued a statement Wednesday, saying his comments, as published, were "misleading."
He said the question was responding to in the article was: "How should we act in time of war, when our neighbors attack us, using their women, children and religious holy places as shields."
Friedman said he was trying to address some of the ethical issues related to forcing the military to withhold fire from certain people and places, "when one's own family and nation is mercilessly targeted from those very people and places!"
The article asked rabbis of different denominations the same question.
The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations(CAIR-MN) denounced Friedman's comments on Wednesday.
"This disturbing call to genocide and religious desecration must be repudiated by all Minnesotans who value peaceful coexistence and interfaith harmony," CAIR-MN Communications Director Jessica Zikri said. "Silence in the face of such extremist views will only serve to give the author a false sense of legitimacy and approval."
At least three Jewish organizations -- Jewish Voice for Peace, the national educational foundation Hamifgash, and the Jewish Communication Relations Council --- also condemned Friedman's comments.
"Far from bringing peace and security to Jews, this abhorrent disregard for the lives of non-Jews only leads to more bloodshed and war," said Cecilie Surasky, of Jewish Voice for Peace, in a statement.
In his statement, Friedman apologized for any misunderstanding the words printed in his name may have created.
St. Paul rabbi's comments set off storm of protest
"Destroy their holy sites. Kill men, women and children," St. Paul Rabbi Manis Friedman wrote about Arabs. He says the quote was misleading.
By JEFF STRICKLER, Star Tribune
Last update: June 3, 2009 - 11:19 PM
A St. Paul rabbi ignited a tidal wave of protest Wednesday when he was quoted in a Jewish magazine as advocating the killing of Arabs.
"Destroy their holy sites. Kill men, women and children," wrote Rabbi Manis Friedman of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. "With their holy sites destroyed, they will stop believing that God is on their side."
He quickly retreated from that position following withering criticism from both Muslim and Jewish groups. He posted a blog entry saying that his words were "misleading" because they were the answer to a different question than the one that was posed at the start of the article.
Friedman's statement was one of several from rabbis around the country printed in Moment, which bills itself as a magazine of Jewish politics, culture and religion. The rabbis each represented a different denomination. Chabad-Lubavitch is a Hasidic movement in Orthodox Judaism. Friedman was listed as rabbi of the Bais Chana Institute of Jewish Studies, a girls school in St. Paul.
The other rabbis all advocated finding a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Friedman's statement opens with: "I don't believe in western morality, i.e. don't kill civilians or children, don't destroy holy sites, don't fight during holiday seasons, don't bomb cemeteries, don't shoot until they shoot first because it is immoral."
The headline over the statements says: "How should Jews treat their Arab neighbors?" Friedman insisted that the question presented to him was: "How should we act, in a time of war, when our neighbors attack us, using their women, children and religious holy places as shields?"
'An affront to all people'
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) denounced his comments. "They echo the extreme rhetoric that we all have been moving away from," said Jessica Zikri, communications director for the Minnesota chapter of CAIR. "I'm surprised that a legitimate publication like Moment would publish this. They should have shown better judgment."
The article drew fire from Jewish organizations, too. Jewish Voice for Peace issued a statement calling Friedman's comments "an affront to all people, but especially Jews who value all life equally."
Rabbi Haim Beliak, executive director of the national educational foundation HaMifgash, was equally harsh, saying that Friedman's ideas "suggest a debased morality and an atrophied ethical sensibility. Friedman does not speak for Judaism."
Friedman was not available for further comment, but his supervisor, Rabbi Moshe Feller, director of Upper Midwest Chabad-Lubavitch, said that he had reprimanded Friedman.
"Rabbi Manis is not like that at all," Feller said. "He's a very soft-spoken man, a very quiet man. But what he said is wrong. It was an irresponsible remark."
In his blog posting, Friedman apologized "for any misunderstanding the words printed in my name created" and tried to "clarify" his answer. He said his answer was specifically tailored to address a military invasion.
"I attempted to briefly address some of the ethical issues related to forcing the military to withhold fire from certain people and places, at the unbearable cost of widespread bloodshed [on both sides] when one's own family and nation is mercilessly targeted from those very people and places," he said.
"Any neighbor of the Jewish people should be treated, as the Torah commands us, with respect and compassion."
Jeff Strickler • 612-673-7392
Florida Case Angers Muslim Groups
federal immigration judge denied bail Friday to a 23-year-old engineering student from Tampa who has been charged by the U.S. government for engaging in terrorism.
The defendant, Youssef Megahed, has already been acquitted by a federal jury of related charges. But now, he faces essentially the same charges again in an immigration court, where if he is found guilty he faces deportation back to his native Egypt.
The case has inflamed Muslim immigrant groups, and has become a cause célèbre in Egypt, where President Barack Obama makes a much anticipated trip next week. The issue: Whether an immigrant defendant who is acquitted in one U.S. court can be detained and then retried in an immigration court, without invoking protection against double jeopardy, which forbids prosecutors from trying defendants more than once on the same evidence.
The undergraduate from the University of South Florida was arrested in 2007 in South Carolina with a companion, another USF student from Egypt named Ahmed Mohamed, driving a car that allegedly had explosives in the trunk. Mr. Megahed's companion explained the lengths of PVC pipe and chemical compounds were simply home-made fireworks that Mr. Mohamed planned to detonate for fun during a vacation. Mr. Mohamed later agreed to plead guilty to a federal charge of providing material support to terrorism -- and submit to a 15-year sentence -- while six charges of transporting explosives were dropped.
Mr. Megahed decided to fight those charges in court and was acquitted April 3 on four criminal counts stemming from the arrest. He had already served nine months in jail before making bail prior to the opening of his trial in March in Tampa.
But three days after the acquittal, Mr. Megahed was arrested a second time by federal agents at a local Wal-Mart store where he was shopping with his father. Mr. Megahed was charged under the Immigration and Naturalization Act as someone a U.S. official "knows, or has reason to believe, is engaged in or is likely to engage" in terrorist activity. He was also designated for deportation to Egypt, the country he emigrated from in 1998, when he was 12 years old.
Mr. Megahed was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agents for immigration violations, "which differ from the allegations on his criminal case," although they derive from the criminal charges presented at his trial, said Nicole Navas, spokeswoman for ICE. If he is found guilty, he faces removal from the U.S., though he would have "the opportunity to bring his case before an immigration judge," she said.
Under current law, a noncitizen doesn't enjoy protection from double jeopardy says Mr. Megahed's attorney, Charles Kuck of Atlanta, at least not in immigration proceedings, where rules on evidence are different. "They obviously can't convict my client of criminal charges," Mr. Kuck said. "So they've gone for a venue where there is a lower burden of proof." Mr. Megahed couldn't be reached to comment.
At Mr. Megahed's April trial, the government entered as evidence a home computer, which prosecutors said showed that someone in the Megahed family had accessed sites that demonstrated how to make explosives. That failed to persuade the jury, however. "Are you ready to convict based on someone's Internet history? I'm not," said Gary Meringer, the foreman of the Tampa jury who acquitted Mr. Megahed in April. Mr. Meringer and three other jurors have issued a statement protesting the second arrest.
Write to Joel Millman at joel.millman@...
Informant's role questioned in U.S. security probes
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The arrests of four men in a suspected plot to bomb two New York synagogues have drawn fire from critics who say U.S. law enforcement relies on informants who infiltrate extremist groups that otherwise would be incapable of mounting an attack.
Civil liberties advocates and legal scholars say the case is part of a pattern since the September 11 attacks of 2001 in which paid informants are sent to mosques where they aid and encourage disgruntled Muslim men in criminal pursuits.
"We're concerned that it was the actions of the FBI informant that really led to the alleged plot," said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American Islamic Relations.
Police on May 20 arrested four men who they said worked with an undercover informant for a year and were caught on video leaving what they believed were live bombs outside a pair of synagogues in the Bronx borough of New York.
The men then planned to shoot down military aircraft with a guided surface-to-air missile that, like the explosives, was deactivated and provided by the informant, authorities said.
The suspects -- James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen -- are charged with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and face up to life in prison if convicted. None is believed to have links to al Qaeda.
"Why the FBI is going out to create a terrorist group just so they can then solve the crime by prosecuting the terrorist group seems a little odd," said Michael German, who spent 16 years as an FBI special agent and now works with the American Civil Liberties Union.
He cited the fact that the men in the Bronx case had difficulty buying a pistol as evidence they needed help to do real harm.
FBI spokesman Jim Margolin said it was bureau policy not to comment on pending or previous cases and he would not comment on the use of informants generally.
"They still had the intention," Joseph Demarest, head of the New York FBI office, said of the suspects at a recent news conference.
Andrew McCarthy, a former assistant U.S. attorney who successfully prosecuted Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing plot, said informants were closely monitored and essential to preventing attacks.
"If the counterterrorism strategy you want is to prevent attacks from happening, you don't have any choice but to infiltrate potential terrorist organizations," McCarthy said. "Your average FBI agent from Iowa is not going to be able to ... credibly infiltrate terrorist organizations."
BENDING THE RULES
Recent plots targeting New Jersey's Fort Dix military base, the New York subway system and Chicago's Sears Tower have been foiled at early stages with the help of informants and have led to criminal convictions.
In 2006, a 23-year-old Pakistani immigrant, Matin Siraj, was convicted of plotting to blow up a New York subway station after meeting with an informant nearly twice his age who was recruited by police to monitor extremist Muslims at mosques.
Siraj testified the informant had inflamed his anger toward the United States.
Another informant used in multiple cases, Mohamed Alanssi, set himself on fire outside the White House in November 2004 to protest his treatment by the FBI.
German said the public should be concerned about entrapment even if, as a defense, it typically fails to sway juries.
"It really strains credulity why the FBI chose not to use undercover agents (instead of informants), and my concern is the reason why is because they know the informants will bend the rules a lot more easily," German said.
In the Bronx case, Payen's court-appointed lawyer said her client was "intellectually challenged" and schizophrenic.
"They look like hapless mopes who, but for the government, wouldn't have been involved in anything, let alone a sophisticated plot," said Columbia University Law School professor Daniel Richman.
"The problem the government faces is the concern that a group of hapless mopes, when visited by the foreign terrorist type, will turn into very willing and effective tools."
(Additional reporting by Christine Kearney; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Peter Cooney)