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‘Anti-Mosque Activity' in More than Half of US States: Racist Vandals Hit Muslim Community Centres

25 May 2012

By Juan Cole

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which were carried out by hijackers from Arab countries, animosity toward Muslims sometimes has taken the form of opposition to construction of mosques and other Islamic facilities. National debate erupted over plans for a community center that became known as the "Ground Zero mosque" in Lower Manhattan.

In the last five years, there has been "anti-mosque activity" in more than half the states, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Some mosques were vandalized – a $5,000 reward is being offered in a 2011 Wichita mosque arson case – and others were targets of efforts to deny zoning permits.

Mosque opponents often raise concerns about traffic and parking, but Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU's freedom of religion program, says they can be "sham arguments" that mask anti-Muslim sentiment.

Mosque opponents often raise concerns about traffic and parking, but Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU's freedom of religion program, says they can be "sham arguments" that mask anti-Muslim sentiment.

"I hope that eventually there will be greater acceptance for all faiths, including Islam," Mach says.

Muslims detained by FBI for spending too long in lavatory

A group of Muslims was detained Wednesday at Orlando Sanford International Airport, apparently because of a misunderstanding over an Islamic cleanliness ritual, authorities said.

The captain of Allegiant flight No.625 from Allentown, Pa., radioed ahead and asked airport police to meet the plane when it landed about 8:30p.m., said Larry Dale, airport director and commander of its 11-member police force.

Members of the group were lingering in the lavatory and asked for a cup, arousing suspicion, Dale said. An FBI agent was interviewing three men late Wednesday, but it appeared that the travelers were detained because of a religious custom dictating cleanliness and that they would be released.

"In today's world, we'd rather be cautious," Dale said.

About half a dozen people and one child – at least some members of the same family – were traveling from Pennsylvania to Central Florida for a volleyball and badminton tournament, Dale said.

The travelers are of Middle Eastern descent, and at least one of the women wore a head scarf, he said.

Muhammad Musri, president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, said devout Muslims customarily clean their private parts with water after using the restroom, and that is likely what members of the group were doing. The procedure is known as istinja.

"They [the airplane crew] didn't understand it, probably," Musri said. "If you didn't know the reason, you'd say, ‘Why do you need the cup? Why are you taking it with you into the bathroom?'"

There was no disruption on the flight, Dale said.

"I'm glad they didn't have to divert the plane to another airport," Musri said. "Sometimes we overreact."

Racist Vandals Hit Muslim Community Centre

Vandals struck at a Preston community centre and daubed the walls with racist graffiti. The Hamaara Centre, at the rear of Castleton Road, Deepdale, Preston, was broken into and windows and furniture were smashed by the offenders.

The centre, which is run by Preston Muslim Forum, is used for English classes, youth clubs and mother and toddler groups.

The vandals are believed to have entered the premises using the rear shutter and they caused extensive damage including the smashing of windows and damaging the table tennis table, snooker table, storage cupboard and furniture and toys used by the mother and toddler group.

Paint was also sprayed on the walls and racist graffiti including the Nazi Swastika symbols was scrawled all over the walls.

Chris Christie, AG wrong to conclude NYPD Muslim probe was justified

It was disturbing to learn several months ago that the New York Police Department was conducting secret spy missions on Muslims in Newark, building dossiers on their mosques and shops, taking photographs and eavesdropping on their conversations.

It is more disturbing to learn that Gov.Chris Christie and his attorney general, Jeffrey Chiesa, have concluded that it was all justified. Throwing this kind of wide net of surveillance over a community, based on its religion, strikes us as a sloppy overreach of police powers.

Chiesa said Thursday that, after a three-month investigation, he could find no evidence that NYPD officers broke any laws. The NYPD, he says, was acting on legitimate intelligence tips when it began its ethnic mapping project in 2007.

Given the confidential nature of this, the public will never know for sure. But what tip could possibly justify such blanket surveillance of a community based on its religion? Did the tipster suggest all Muslims were dangerous? And if the threat was more specific, why did the search have to be so broad?

American Muslims Working to Protect Equal Rights of Minorities in Middle East

Muslim American's continue with their persistent and consistent efforts at highlighting the critical importance of promoting and protecting "equal rights" for minorities in the Middle East.

Central to the struggles and reforms emerging across the Middle East from the Arab Spring are questions of how to ensure the protection of freedom, tolerance, and economic sustainability for all people, particularly minority groups.

In an effort to develop an international strategy for social stability and economic development in the Middle East, the State of Qatar's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the UCLA Center for Middle East Development gathered community leaders and activists from across the globe this week in Doha for a conference focusing on enriching the future of the Middle East. The conference was held in conjunction with the 12th Annual Doha Forum.

ISNA Director of Community Outreach Mohamed Elsanousi participated in a workshop focusing on the "Future of Religious Minorities in the Region." Elsanousi's participation in the workshop was a part of ISNA's ongoing work with Muslim leaders worldwide to promote Islamic standards and develop protocols that protect religious freedom, particularly for religious minorities, in Muslim-majority countries.

"In Islam, we are taught that all people are equal and should not be discriminated against in any way based on their religion," stated Elsanousi. "It is our responsibility as Muslims to promote programs and policies that protect freedom of religion for all people in the emerging democracies across the Arab Spring to ensure the repression of the old regimes is never allowed to take root again."

The workshop highlighted examples from Islamic history, such as the covenant of Medina, which thrived under a system of law that guaranteed equal rights for all people in a Muslim majority community.

The workshop also echoed many of the strategies shared by ISNA President Imam Mohamed Magid and other leaders during last week's ISNA co-sponsored symposium on the Rights of Religious Minorities in Islam.

 

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