Islamophobia in USA: South Asians battle lingering stereotypes from 9/11
- South Asians battle lingering stereotypes from 9/11
SUNDAY, JULY 31, 2011 LAST UPDATED: SUNDAY JULY 31, 2011, 9:52 AM
BY RICHARD COWEN
JERSEY CITY — Nearly a decade has passed since terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center and severely damaged the Pentagon, but many South Asian immigrants say they're still living with the lingering effects of racism and anti-Islamic fervor unleashed by the attacks.
Although as a group they are richly diverse, the Sikh, Hindus and Muslims who gathered at St. Peter's College on Saturday all told stories about how America changed drastically after Sept. 11, 2001. And it wasn't for the better.
The three-hour conference, titled "An America for All of Us," was organized by South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a non-profit that is holding a series of discussions around the country in preparation for the 10-year commemoration of 9/11. About 50 people attended Saturday's event, which was broken down into three panel discussions featuring community activists and political leaders.
At a glance
To get involved with "An America for All of Us" visit the website.
If you believe you have been the victim of discrimination at an airport in the United States and wish to file a complaint, go to the Transportation Safety Administration website at www.tsa.gov. Click on "Civil Rights for Travelers."
Sitting on a panel of political leaders was Teaneck Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin, who offered the simple advice that South Asians must get involved in government at every level.
Hameeduddin urged South Asian communities to link up with other minority groups to advance common interests.
"Justice is not about 'just us,' " he said. "It has to be about liberty and justice for all. Our job is not to be bitter. But to be better."
Children have also borne the brunt of racism in the post-9/11 world. With their distinctive dress and head scarves, South Asian children are often bullied at school, panelists said.
Salim Patel, a trustee on the Passaic Board of Education, spoke of the need for schools to seriously address bullying. He also called on parents to become more involved in their children's education.
"South Asians believe in education, but they don't come to the [school board] meetings," he said.
South Asian adults also complained of being bullied in a country where many came to find freedom and acceptance.
Rajinder Singh Khalsa, a Sikh, spoke about being assaulted on the street for wearing a turban. When he threatened to call the police, his assailant threatened to kill him.
"I'm a first-generation immigrant," Khalsa told the audience. "We felt we came to America and there would be equal rights. But this is a very different America."
Aparna Hansdeep Singh complained bitterly about being singled out at airport security checkpoints because of his beard. He's often patted down in the "glass boxes" at airports, he said.
The glass boxes, Singh said, have no useful security purpose and only serve to reinforce stereotypes about Muslims being terrorists.
Vineeta Kophi told how South Asians were often the victims of domestic abuse. But they're afraid to call the police because they fear their husbands will be deported.
Despite his troubles in the post-9/11 world, Khalsa said he was grateful for the promise of America. "God Bless America," he said. "God Bless All."
Yet, despite America's promise of religious freedom, Muslims and Hindus have had to fight to establish houses of worship.
Yasser Abdelkader spoke about the ongoing battle in Bridgewater to build the Al Falah Center, a mosque. The Muslim community submitted plans to convert an old banquet hall into a mosque, a conforming use in the zone. But the Bridgewater zoning board first rejected the plan, then changed the zoning restrictions so the mosque wouldn't conform. That case is now in federal court.
"Not only did the town change the rules of the game, they changed the rules of the game after the ball had been thrown and was in midair," Abdelkader said.
Hansdip Bhindra of Long Valley told his own story of hard-fought justice. A software engineer from Morris County, he was flying from Newark to Dayton, Ohio, just before Thanksgiving in 2002 to see friends.
A Sikh, Bhindra was wearing his customary turban when he boarded a plane in Cincinnati bound for Dayton. He was seated and getting ready for takeoff when a flight attendant approached.
"She said to me, 'people from the Middle East should not be flying,' " Bhindra recalled. "Then she told me she was going to report me to the captain."
"First of all, I told her I wasn't from the Middle East," Bhindra said. The plane took off, and several passengers later approached Bhindra to express their shock at how he was treated.
Bhindra later sued Delta Airlines for discrimination in federal court. It took two years, but Bhindra won a cash settlement and the flight attendant was fired. The settlement also required the airline to better train its employees.
Despite the victory, Bhindra says he's still shaken by the incident. It is "being singled out for what I wear and what I am perceived to be," he said.
The Man Behind the Anti-Shariah Movement
By ANDREA ELLIOTT
Published: July 30, 2011
NASHVILLE — Tennessee’s latest woes include high unemployment, continuing foreclosures and a battle over collective-bargaining rights for teachers. But when a Republican representative took the Statehouse floor during a recent hearing, he warned of a new threat to his constituents’ way of life: Islamic law.
The representative, a former fighter pilot named Rick Womick, said he had been studying the Koran. He declared that Shariah, the Islamic code that guides Muslim beliefs and actions, is not just an expression of faith but a political and legal system that seeks world domination. “Folks,” Mr. Womick, 53, said with a sudden pause, “this is not what I call ‘Do unto others what you’d have them do unto you.’ ”
Similar warnings are being issued across the country as Republican presidential candidates, elected officials and activists mobilize against what they describe as the menace of Islamic law in the United States.
Since last year, more than two dozen states have considered measures to restrict judges from consulting Shariah, or foreign and religious laws more generally. The statutes have been enacted in three states so far.
Voters in Oklahoma overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment last November that bans the use of Islamic law in court. And in June, Tennessee passed an antiterrorism law that, in its original iteration, would have empowered the attorney general to designate Islamic groups suspected of terror activity as “Shariah organizations.”
A confluence of factors has fueled the anti-Shariah movement, most notably the controversy over the proposed Islamic center near ground zero in New York, concerns about homegrown terrorism and the rise of the Tea Party. But the campaign’s air of grass-roots spontaneity, which has been carefully promoted by advocates, shrouds its more deliberate origins.
In fact, it is the product of an orchestrated drive that began five years ago in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, in the office of a little-known lawyer, David Yerushalmi, a 56-year-old Hasidic Jew with a history of controversial statements about race, immigration and Islam. Despite his lack of formal training in Islamic law, Mr. Yerushalmi has come to exercise a striking influence over American public discourse about Shariah.
Working with a cadre of conservative public-policy institutes and former military and intelligence officials, Mr. Yerushalmi has written privately financed reports, filed lawsuits against the government and drafted the model legislation that recently swept through the country — all with the effect of casting Shariah as one of the greatest threats to American freedom since the cold war.
The message has caught on. Among those now echoing Mr. Yerushalmi’s views are prominent Washington figures like R. James Woolsey, a former director of the C.I.A., and the Republican presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann, who this month signed a pledge to reject Islamic law, likening it to “totalitarian control.”
Yet, for all its fervor, the movement is arguably directed at a problem more imagined than real. Even its leaders concede that American Muslims are not coalescing en masse to advance Islamic law. Instead, they say, Muslims could eventually gain the kind of foothold seen in Europe, where multicultural policies have allowed for what critics contend is an overaccommodation of Islamic law.
“Before the train gets too far down the tracks, it’s time to put up the block,” said Guy Rodgers, the executive director of ACT for America, one of the leading organizations promoting the legislation drafted by Mr. Yerushalmi.
The more tangible effect of the movement, opponents say, is the spread of an alarmist message about Islam — the same kind of rhetoric that appears to have influenced Anders Behring Breivik, the suspect in the deadly dual attacks in Norway on July 22. The anti-Shariah campaign, they say, appears to be an end in itself, aimed at keeping Muslims on the margins of American life.
“The fact is there is no Shariah takeover in America,” said Salam Al-Marayati, the president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, one of several Muslim organizations that have begun a counteroffensive. “It’s purely a political wedge to create fear and hysteria.”
Anti-Shariah organizers are pressing ahead with plans to introduce versions of Mr. Yerushalmi’s legislation in half a dozen new states, while reviving measures that were tabled in others.
The legal impact of the movement is unclear. A federal judge blocked the Oklahoma amendment after a representative of the Council on American- Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy group, sued the state, claiming the law was an unconstitutional infringement on religious freedom.
The establishment clause of the Constitution forbids the government from favoring one religion over another or improperly entangling itself in religious matters. But many of the statutes are worded neutrally enough that they might withstand constitutional scrutiny while still limiting the way courts handle cases involving Muslims, other religious communities or foreign and international laws.
Peter King's reckless claim of al-Shabaab's menace to the US
The New York congressman seeks to put the spotlight on Somali Americans as a domestic terror threat. The facts show otherwise
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 31 July 2011 19.30 BST
This past week, Congressman Peter King, chairman of the House homeland security committee, held the third in a series of highly publicised hearings on the radicalisation of Muslims in the United States and the threat they allegedly pose to the American homeland. King's focus this time around was on Americans who support al-Shabaab, an organised insurgency in Somalia known for its brutal tactics and the ruthless control it exerts over its own members. According to King, the danger this faraway rebellion poses for the United States should not be minimised:
"With al-Shabaab's large cadre of American jihadis and unquestionable ties to al-Qaida, particularly its alliance with AQAP, we must face the reality that al-Shabaab is a growing threat to our homeland."
King claimed to base his findings on an investigation conducted by his staff. His conclusion was that the call of al-Shabaab has placed the American homeland in imminent peril.
Most of the criticism leveled at King has focused on his reckless use of Congress to articulate distrust and fear of Muslims in a way that upends the basic tenets of non-discrimination in the United States. But more to the point, there are numerous factual and interpretive mistakes in King's representation of the Somalia issue. These errors are worth noting, because if left uncorrected, they may propel the United States along another erroneous pathway, both at home and abroad.
First, King misrepresents the magnitude of the exodus of Americans to Somalia. King's figures are correct, but his conclusions are misleading. Since 2009, nearly 40 individuals have been indicted in the United States for providing some sort of support – or wanting to provide some sort of support – to al-Shabaab. According to the terrorism database at the Centre on Law and Security, which I direct, 20 individuals have been indicted for travelling to Somalia to fight for al-Shabaab, and an additional five have been indicted for attempting to travel there. Of these, 15 were US citizens. This is hardly a "large cadre of Americans".
Second, King confuses internationalist jihad with nationalist foreign insurgency. In the case of Somalia, the main imperative for fighting is not international jihad; it is the wresting of power from the group now in nominal control of the government, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). The individuals who join this insurgency are most often of Somali descent and are fighting to help their former countrymen and their families in a failed state where violence, famine and chronic water shortage plague one the poorest nations on earth. In fact, contrary to King's assumptions, recent research done by Thomas Hegghammer at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment suggests that most foreign fighters do not have terrorist intentions at the outset beyond the nationalist cause they are looking to serve.
Third, King infers that tenuous links between foreign insurgency and jihadi violence will result in terrorism in the United States, once these foreign fighters return, now trained in the tactics of violence. This may, in fact, be a realistic worry for the future. But at present, the statistics show, according to the study done by Hegghammer (who is currently a fellow at the Centre on Law and Security), that "not more than one in eight foreign fighters returned to perpetrate terrorism in the west", once they have left the nationalist cause for which they were fighting abroad. As to facts on the ground in the United States, there are no Somalia returnees who have been charged with planning to attack America. On the contrary, returnees who have been indicted have been charged with attempts to recruit for the struggle abroad.
Fourth, to bolster his conflation of terrorism and nationalist struggle, King misrepresents the strength of the ties between al-Shabaab and al-Qaida. While there may be some connection between some of the leaders, al-Shabaab's mission is very much its own. According to the National Counterterrorism Centre, al-Shabaab's links to al-Qaida have not reached the organisational level; it can therefore in no way be classified as a strong partner in the al-Qaida network. To quote from the NCC's website:
"While most of [Shabaab's] fighters are predominantly interested in the nationalistic battle against the TFG and not supportive of global jihad, al-Shabaab's senior leadership is affiliated with al-Qaida, and certain extremists aligned with al-Shabaab are believed to have trained and fought in Afghanistan."
A summary report by the Council on Foreign Relations concurs:
"Experts say there are links between individual al-Shabaab leaders and individual members of al-Qaida, but any organizational linkage between the two groups is weak, if it exists at all."
These exaggerations and errors suggest that King has fallen prey to three fallacies that have, unfortunately, characterised American counterterrorism policy since 9/11, generating a string of counterproductive policies. King, too, fails to distinguish between the various terrorists threats – that is, the difference posed by Americans who reach out to al-Shabaab, as opposed to AQAP; he risks playing into the worldview of al-Qaida, which is constantly trying to claim inroads into foreign struggles; and finally, he succumbs to fantasy threat-inflation rather than encouraging realistic risk-avoidance – it is one thing to be vigilant about fighters returning from Somalia and quite another to prosecute individuals merely for a desire to fight in the civil conflict there. A more feet-on-the-ground approach would begin with a simple observation: the only Somali American who attempted to commit violence against US targets was Mohamed Osman Mohamud – and he
appears to have no links to al-Shabaab or their cause.
The accurate analysis of homegrown terrorism in the United States is yet to be written. But its contours would look something like this: the incidence of terrorism arrests and indictments have gone down precipitously in 2011. Yet the serious nature of terrorism arrests for domestic terrorism has risen in recent years, as illustrated notably by the Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, the New York City subway bomber Najibullah Zazi and Major Hassan at Fort Hood. Somalis have not yet emerged as a group with the motivation and capacity to harm Americans at home or abroad.
It is responsible to consider the possibility of what will happen as Somali fighters are exposed to al-Qaida operatives and foreign training; it is not so to make the claim, as Peter King has, that Somali Muslims represent a real and present danger to the United States. Until the United States can have a fact-based discussion of terrorism and look towards threat management, rather than prevention strategies based on guesswork and hyperbole, the excesses of the war on terror – and the harm that it has caused to America's core values – will rage on.
• additional research for this piece was contributed by Susan Quatrone
Pamela Geller Edits Post to Conceal Violent Rhetoric in 'Email from Norway'
FBI ‘Islam 101′ Guide Depicted Muslims as 7th-Century Simpletons
By Spencer Ackerman
As recently as January 2009, the FBI thought its agents ought to know the following crucial information about Muslims:
They engage in a “circumcision ritual”
More than 9,000 of them are in the U.S. military
Their religion “transforms [a] country’s culture into 7th-century Arabian ways.”
And this was what the FBI considered “recommended reading” about Islam:
A much-criticized tome, The Arab Mind, that one reviewer called “a collection of outrageously broad — and often suspect — generalizations“
A book by one of Norwegian terrorist suspect Anders Behring Breivik’s favorite anti-Muslim authors.
All this is revealed in a PowerPoint presentation by the FBI’s Law Enforcement Communications Unit (.pdf), which trains new Bureau recruits. Among the 62 slides in the presentation, designed to teach techniques for “successful interviews/interrogations with individuals from the M.E. [Middle East],” is an instruction that the “Arabic mind” is “swayed more by words than ideas and more by ideas than facts.”
The briefing presents much information that has nothing to do with crime and everything to do with constitutionally-protected religious practice and social behavior, such as estimating the number of mosques in America and listing the states with the largest Muslim populations.
Other slides paint Islam in a less malicious light, and one urges “respectful liaison” as a “proactive approach” to engaging Muslims. But even those exhibit what one American Muslim civil rights leader calls “the understanding of a third grader, and even then, a badly misinformed third grader.”
One slide asks, “Is Iran an Arab country?” (It’s not.) Another is just a picture of worry beads.
“Based on this presentation, it is easy to see why so many in law enforcement and the FBI view American Muslims with ignorance and suspicion,” says Farhana Khera, the executive director of Muslim Advocates, a legal aid group. “The presentation appears to treat all Muslims with one broad brush and makes no distinction between lawful religious practice and beliefs and unlawful activities.”
At Allen West-Sponsored Event, Group Paints Thousands Of Muslims As Terrorists
Local Muslims on high alert
Attacks in Norway prompt warning from national Islamic group
Although no threats have been made against Toledo-area mosques following the killings in Norway, local Muslims are on high alert at the urging of a national Islamic advocacy group.
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations advised U.S. mosques Monday to "step up security following attacks by an anti-Muslim, right-wing terrorist in Norway that left more than 70 people dead."
Nihad Awad, the council's executive director, said in a statement that the suspect, Anders Behring Breivik, had written a 1,500-page manifesto "designed to inspire similar attacks" and that the suspect claimed "there are others who share his beliefs ready to strike."
Dr. Mahjabeen Islam, vice president of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, said the Perrysburg mosque is taking the advisory seriously.
"We have not received any threats, but we will stay on high alert because after any event like this there are copycat crimes," she said.
Spokesmen for Masjid Saad in Sylvania and the Toledo Muslim Community Center said they would take precautions, although no major new security efforts are planned.
Dr. Abbas Khalil of the Muslim community center, which moved into the former J. Jeffrey Fretti Funeral Home on West Sylvania Avenue in January, said members planned to discuss security concerns when they gathered for prayer last night.
Arizonans enraged at Muslim word for dust storm
Yet another example of the hysterical, small-minded stupidity of the people of the great state of Arizona made it to today's New York Times. With massive, dangerous dust storms sweeping through central Arizona, the populace is obviously very worried -- about MUSLIM WORDS.
The blinding waves of brown particles, the most recent of which hit Phoenix on Monday, are caused by thunderstorms that emit gusts of wind, roiling the desert landscape. Use of the term “haboob,” which is what such storms have long been called in the Middle East, has rubbed some Arizona residents the wrong way.
“I am insulted that local TV news crews are now calling this kind of storm a haboob,” Don Yonts, a resident of Gilbert, Ariz., wrote to The Arizona Republic after a particularly fierce, mile-high dust storm swept through the state on July 5. “How do they think our soldiers feel coming back to Arizona and hearing some Middle Eastern term?"
Yep. Think of the soldiers!!! When they come home to Arizona I'm sure they will get very upset at the thought of someone describing these massive wind storms with an Arabic term. An Arabic term that has long been used, in America, by meteorologists and others, to describe these storms. Because it is the word for these storms.
Attack likely to be tried as hate crime
Let's not kid ourselves: Muslim-baiting has worked for Cain
In the past few months, Herman Cain has said that he'd be uneasy appointing a Muslim to his Cabinet, endorsed the idea of loyalty tests for Muslims, and argued that any community in America should be free to ban mosques if that's what its citizens want. "Islam," the Republican presidential hopeful has claimed, "is both a religion and a set of laws -- Sharia laws. That's the difference between any one of our traditional religions where it's just about religious purposes."
More than any of his GOP rivals, Cain has made demonization of Muslims his calling card. We can call his pronouncements ugly and misinformed, and they certainly are. But let's not pretend that in the Republican political universe of 2011 they make for a bad political strategy.
That's what the Atlantic's Joshua Green claimed earlier this week, in a piece that argued Cain has badly miscalculated with his Muslim-baiting antics and that he would have been wiser to make a 17-year-old video clip in which he confronts then-President Bill Clinton over his healthcare reform plan the centerpiece of his pitch to GOP voters:
Muslim lawmaker: Herman Cain is a "bigot"
Over the past few months, former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain has carved out a place as the most prominent anti-Muslim figure in the GOP presidential field, and, arguably, the country.
First, earlier this year, he promised he would not hire any Muslims to be in his future cabinet, subsequently repeating various versions of that pledge. Then, on a trip to Tennessee last week, Cain came out against the construction of a mosque project there. On Fox News Sunday, he expanded that stance, endorsing the idea that any American community could bar construction of mosques.
To get a response to Cain's new comments, I spoke to Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., who is one of two Muslim members of Congress and who has emerged in recent years as a loud anti-anti-Muslim voice.
"It seems like a week doesn't go by without Cain saying something incredibly offensive, so I can only guess that he's doing it on purpose," said Ellison. "He's probably figured out that he can get headlines if he says something really ugly, so he doesn't disappoint."
Ellison said he feels moved to address these issues because when people "start whipping up hatred against a certain group over the course of years, bad things happen. History teaches us that if you continue to stir the pot, stir the cauldron, it will not be long before something awful happens."
La Mirada mosque vandalized
Stand up to Herman Cain’s bigotry
It is time to stop giving Herman Cain’s unapologetic bigotry a free pass. The man and his poison need to be seen clearly and taken seriously.
Imagine the reaction if a major-party presidential candidate — one who, like Cain, shows actual support in the polls — said he “wouldn’t be comfortable” appointing a Jew to a Cabinet position. Imagine the outrage if this same candidate loudly supported a community’s efforts to block Mormons from building a house of worship.
But Cain’s prejudice isn’t against Mormons or Jews, it’s against Muslims. Open religious prejudice is usually enough to disqualify a candidate for national office — but not, apparently, when the religion in question is Islam.
The Hated and the Hater, Both Touched by Crime
By TIMOTHY WILLIAMS
Published: July 18, 2011
Mark Anthony Stroman, 41, a stonecutter from Dallas, shot people he believed were Arabs, saying he was enraged by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He killed at least two: Vasudev Patel, an Indian immigrant who was Hindu, and Waqar Hasan, a Muslim born in Pakistan.
A third shooting victim, Rais Bhuiyan, 37, a former Air Force pilot from Bangladesh, survived after Mr. Stroman shot him in the face at close range. Mr. Stroman admitted to the shootings. He is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday.
Chairs disappear and rumors fly at Va. Starbucks that is immigrant enclave
The regulars showed up as usual at the Falls Church Starbucks one day in late June, ready to share coffee and conversation with fellow immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa.
But the men were stunned to find that the coffee chain, an integral part of their daily routine, had removed the outdoor seating that was central to their gatherings.
The disappearance of the tables and chairs came just days after a front-page article in The Washington Post on June 26 described how the Starbucks, located in a strip mall in an area known as Skyline, became such a draw that it is known in other countries.
A Fairfax County official said the store lacked the correct permitting for outdoor seating. A Starbucks representative said the store and mall are working to address the issue and hope to restore the outdoor seating within a month.
“It’s definitely a priority for us to get those chairs and tables back out there,” Stacey Krum, a company spokeswoman, said.
The immigrants had begun gathering there in 1997, a year after the coffee chain opened in the Crossroads Place strip mall. They lingered over coffee to discuss politics, sports and life. They dispensed advice to newcomers and even dug into their pockets to help each other out during crises.
But when the tables and chairs suddenly disappeared, breaking up get-togethers, the conspiracy theories were plentiful.
Concerned readers sent e-mails. “Did your article have anything to do with the missing tables?” wrote Sean Mahoney, who lives in Baileys Crossroads near the Starbucks. Without the tables, he added, “this strip mall has lost a lot of its character.”
The immigrants were confounded, too.
“Some of the guys, they said when you guys put us in the paper, that’s why they took the chairs away,” said Abed Ellafdi, a Moroccan who is a regular there. “I said, no, that’s not the reason.”
County spokeswoman Merni Fitzgerald said Fairfax County received a complaint in May about the outdoor tables and sent an inspector, who determined that the outdoor seating was not part of the store’s original site plan.
Video: CAIR-Houston Billboards Target Islamophobia
FBI teaches new recruits to read 'anti-Islam' books
The Telegraph ^ | 7/28/11
Posted on Thu Jul 28 2011 17:01:24 GMT+0100 (GMT Daylight Time) by markomalley
The FBI taught new recruits about Muslims with a power point presentation that recommended they read books criticised as sharply prejudiced against Islam.
A slide show used by the bureau for training new agents told them that Islam “transforms [a] country’s culture into seventh century Arabian ways” and is “hard for westerners to understand”. It said that Muslims were swayed “more by ideas than facts”.
The 62-page document, which was released under freedom of information laws, was designed to help agents perform “successful interviews/interrogations with individuals from the Middle East”.
It told new agents as recently as 2009 that Muslims engage in a “circumcision ritual”. One slide asked “Is Iran an Arab country?” before telling students that it was not.
It also said that agents should understand that the “Arabic mind” was “swayed more by words than ideas and more by ideas than facts.”
The document concluded with a recommended reading list of eight books, which included “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Islam”.
Also among the list was “The truth about Muhammad – Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion”, by Robert Spencer, an author who runs the jihadwatch.com blog.
(Excerpt) Read more at telegraph.co.uk ...