WILL AMERICA OVERCOME THE WILLFUL IGNORANCE OF DIXIECRAT MCCARTHYISM?
By Sultan Muhammad
December 18, 2006
In response to the Chicago Tribune article: U.S. will survive one hand on Koran
It is hard to understand why there is a growing editorial tendency toward willful ignorance and Islamophobic extremism. It is growing at the expense of intellectual honesty and moral reason.
Not that a columnist should not have an opinion, but when opinion morphs into overt hatemongering and dualist propaganda, then editors have the responsibility to prevent the incitement spewed by fringe agitators.
Simply put: hate breeds hate.
In a world where there is no "multi-culti" threat of political correctness and the word "racist" has been banned, because "no word has suffered more abuse," Kathleen Parker and Dennis Prager are whistling Dixiecract with Trent Lott.
Kathleen Parker, in her column, 'U.S. will survive one hand on Koran" (Commentary, Dec. 13) – opted to endorse Prager, who has widely been identified from "all sides" as, "intolerant" and a "bigot."
Although Parker's column was also published under the more polemically charged alias, 'the wolf who cried racist," by the Jewish World Review, it lost none of its invectiveness in its Chicago-Tribune debut.
The Prager fiasco began with a recent column he penned, "America, Not Keith Ellison, decides what book a congressman takes his oath on." Ellison is the first Muslim Congressman and America's first elected African-American to Minnesota Congress.
In his column, Prager effectively trivialized the atrocities of the Holocaust in an indignant analogy where he compared Congressman-elect Keith Ellison's choice to take his congressional oath using the Holy book of his faith- the Koran - to a racist Nazi taking his on a copy of Hitler's Mien Kampf.
Parker concedes that Prager was "technically wrong" in his disregard for Constitutional freedoms that express separation of church and state, yet remains a cheerleader for his gross misrepresentation of America's civil status quo.
Prager's harangue was repudiated in a statement issued by the prominent Jewish advocacy group, the ADL (Anti-Defamation League), which described Prager's diatribe as "ugly...intolerant, misinformed and downright un-American."
Prager's extremism galvanized the ADL, Mayor Ed Koch, the American Family Association, and CAIR (the Council on American Islamic Relations) to respond in united condemnation of his views.
Still Parker joined Prager's monomania and found room to characterize the backlash to his dogma as a recent case where "Muslim and Jew have slugged it out." Contrary to this mischaracterization and as she Parker herself acknowledges throughout the article, this is not a debate that polarizes sides across religious lines. In fact, this is very much a case where "Jew and Jew have slugged it out." The debate has nothing to do with Jews versus Muslims, it has everything to do with Prager versus the majority of Americans (Muslim, Jewish, Christian and otherwise) who took offense to his intolerant and anti-constitutional rant.
And yet, Parker depicts him as "a thoroughly decent fellow," with merely an "unpopular opinion." In her endorsement, she reasserts a number of religiously intolerant and historically revisionist attitudes voiced by Prager with alarmist sensationalism. She describes America as a "Bible-swearing nation" undermining, as Prager has, our secular democratic values that recognize our nation's pluralism.
She refers to a monolithic "radical Muslim world, with the expressed goal of which is to convert us," whereas the reality is that few Muslims in the world ascribe to that agenda. The great majority of Muslims, especially those who happen to be American, simply wish to practice their faith without ridicule or harassment. Their efforts embodied in their representative organizations including CAIR have been pooled toward encouraging pluralistic coexistence and tolerance for all.
According to Parker, expressing your faith, if you are Muslim, is "probable cause to infer" that you are out to make one statement or another. This, of course, is a most disingenuous argument. For Muslims no less than for anyone else, expressing your faith should be taken as no more than – well – expressing your faith. Her selectiveness and aggressive hyperbole, framed in folksy phrases like "traditional values" and "American solidarity," barely conceals her ideological hostility.
The noise of divided opinion, spun by Islamophobic pundits, truly has amplified to a pitch reflective of a nation terrorized by its own uncertainty- caught between the fringes of Dixiecrat McCarthyism and the atrocities of terrorist extremism.
Encouragingly, moderation seems to have found plenty of spokespersons who have courageously raised their voices against Prager's scapegoating of Congressmen-elect Ellison. Parker, on the other hand, seems deafened by "one hand on the Koran."
Copyright © 2006 CAIR-Chicago
SALAH AND ITS IMPLICATIONS ON CIVIL LIBERTIES IN THE U.S.
By Christina Abraham
December 14, 2006
CAIR-Chicago's Civil Rights Coordinator argues that much of the interest in the Salah case is not about outcome, but rather about process.
For months now, the civil rights community in the Chicago area has held its breath awaiting the outcome of a trial whose implications are far reaching. The trial of Mohammad Salah and his co-defendants is more than just a trial about alleged money-laundering; it is about how far a government can go in sacrificing the civil liberties and due process guaranteed by the constitution.
Of the issues surrounding the trial is the issue of admitting information obtained through torture as evidence against a defendant. Mohammad Salah is a U.S. citizen who was arrested at a Gaza checkpoint while trying to deliver monetary aid to Palestinian families torn apart due to Israeli military activity. Salah was subsequently tortured and interrogated for 74 days and eventually signed a confession in Hebrew – a language he does not understand. He was tried before an Israeli Military Court and sentenced to five years in prison. After serving his sentence, Salah returned to his family in Chicago where he was placed on the government’s Specially Designated Terrorist list. Salah’s family assets were frozen and he had to obtain permission from the government for integral activities such as applying for a job, retaining an attorney, opening a bank account, or obtaining medical care.
After September 11, 2001, the government – who had for seven years not filed any charges against Salah, but instead placed him and his family under their watchful eye – re-opened a grand jury investigation into him. In 2004, Salah was charged with providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization, Hamas. This charge was recently dropped and the current charges against him involve allegations of money-laundering for Hamas. The only substantial evidence against Salah is the confession he signed under torture in 1993. Hamas was not designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. until 1995.
What has become painfully clear in this trial is that the government is all-too-willing to accept as evidence information obtained from a foreign state using methods that they themselves are prohibited from using. It is perplexing to understand the reasoning behind a court’s decision to accept into evidence a confession that, had it occurred in the U.S., would have been thrown out in a heartbeat. If a person is detained in the U.S., and is interrogated and subjected to inhumane conditions for weeks before being allowed to even speak with an attorney, any statements they would have made to law enforcement would never be accepted at trial.
Such is the case with Mohammad Salah; the only difference is that those actions were conducted in Israel by Israeli officers. How is it that our government can allow it in our courts simply because it occurred on foreign soil? This is not the way we do things in this country. It has long been established in this country’s legal tradition that information obtained through the use of torture is not only unconstitutional, but also unreliable. A person subjected to inhumane conditions and torture tactics for 74 days is likely to say anything to make the torture stop. Moreover, the confession was written in a language foreign to Salah.
Further, Salah’s placement on the government’s Specially Designated Terrorist list is unconstitutional as there is no provision by which Salah could challenge the designation, yet it had real, material impact on his freedom to engage in some of society’s most basic functions. Such deprivation of the liberties of a U.S. citizen clearly goes against the heart of the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment, which states, "No person shall... be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”
Our nation’s courts should apply a simple test in trying cases such as these in the future: the "Pretend It Happened in the U.S.” test. If the case comes before a U.S. court, and the charges pertain to the alleged breach of U.S. law by a U.S. citizen, then that citizen should be afforded every protection of his/her civil rights guaranteed by the constitution of this country. This nation has a traditionally high standard in regard to the treatment of individuals detained by law enforcement, and that standard was not attained without a price. Countless people made substantial sacrifices to ensure that standard would apply to members of this society. If a foreign nation does not share those values with us, then we cannot rely on information they obtain using methods of torture in prosecuting our citizens.
Christina Abraham can be contacted at email@example.com
copyright © 2006, CAIR-Chicago
THE ROAD TO 2008: WHAT IS THE AMERICAN MUSLIM COMMUNITY'S ROLE?
By Sadiya Ahmed
December 11, 2006
The Democrats in Congress have renewed hope, after taking control over the House and the Senate during the November election.
They have vowed to fight excessive spending, build a more ethical congress and to pass comprehensive immigration reform, which was the subject of many political campaigns during this election year. The Republicans too have announced plans to reform their party.
A shift in power in both the House and the Senate now means a fairly low key end to the current session, with the more controversial issues to be handled after congress reconvenes with a Democrat majority in January.
Issues such as comprehensive immigration reform and certain spending bills have been put on hold until there is more time to decide on them. Some of those issues, Democrats promised, will be handled within the first 100 days of the new session, commonly referred to as the "honeymoon".
With a president that supports comprehensive immigration reform, a divided GOP on the issue, and a Democratic congress by only a narrow margin, there is potential for gridlock where not much legislation will get passed.
Given such a scenario, the American public has begun looking ahead to the 2008 election as one that will bring about a more dramatic change in politics, with a ‘sneak preview' in 2006.
Immigrant communities and advocacy groups rallied around immigrants' rights and had record numbers on Election Day. The American-Muslim community is certainly not exempt from these statistics.
In fact, during the course of the 2006 election, CAIR-Chicago, in partnership with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), was able to increase voter registrations by 80 percent and voter turnout by 50 percent in the southwestern suburb of Bridgeview.
So, what does this all mean for American-Muslims in 2008?
As a community that has more politically aware and active in the last few years, American-Muslims can play a potentially large role in the upcoming election. With more immigrants becoming citizens and potential voters, the community has become one that has finally begun taking stances on issues that affects its members directly and indirectly.
The activism of one of the newer communities in the United States has been credited to the post 9/11 era, in light of the increase in civil rights abuses that the Muslim community has begun to face.
Regardless of the cause for a more politically conscious Muslim community, there are more politically active Muslims engaging in proactive discourse and professional activism than there were ten years ago.
With the first ever American-Muslim elected to the elected to Congress, Keith Ellison is seen as a pioneer. Regardless of what policies he may push once he becomes an active member of the House, Ellison has become an individual providing American Muslims with hope that we will be able to create an agenda that is specific to the needs of our community.
However, for this vision and hope to become reality, the Muslim community must push itself to its limits the way many other immigrant communities have done to excel politically.
Over the next two years, the American-Muslim community must engage itself in constructive and proactive dialogue about the role the Muslims in the political arena, not only with itself, but with mainstream Americans.
If it is to lay a solid foundation in politics, it must educate itself so that each member of the community is aware of the functions of its government and the responsibilities of both elected officials and their constituents.
But, actions speak louder than words.
Not only must dialogue play a central role, participating in meetings with elected officials, conducting voter education projects, and mobilizing people toward activities that identify the American-Muslim community as positive agent of political change.
The next two years will determine who will win the presidency in 2008. The new resident of the White House in 2008 will be determined by the newly activated communities. The role of the American-Muslim community in this election can potentially steer politics in a different direction but only if it makes the commitment to do so. Not simply by talking about it, but rather being about it.
copyright © 2006, CAIR-Chicago
DENNIS PRAGER'S RANT EXPOSES RAW HATE
By Ahmed Rehab
December 8, 2006
Media Monitors Network
Of all the shameless, intolerant, and divisive rants I have come across on the far-right blogosphere this year – and I have come across plenty – Dennis Prager's recent Bible-thumping, Ellison-Bashing diatribe takes the cake.
Prager, in his now infamous townhall.com column, argues that Keith Ellison, America's first-ever Muslim congressman, "should not be allowed" to take an oath on the "bible of Islam" and instead should be forced to take his oath on the "Bible" of Christianity.
Why, you may ask?
Because by taking his oath on the Qur'an, Ellison "undermines American civilization," Prager warns us.
But that's not all.
Prager contends that if Ellison does so, "he will be doing more damage to the unity of America and to the value system that has formed this country than the terrorists of 9-11."
There are so many things wrong with Prager's preposterous argumentation.
For one, it is irresponsible, at the very least, to compare the relatively uneventful effect of one congressman's ceremonial oath to the tragic effects of a monstrous attack that took 3,000 innocent lives and scarred our nation forever.
Likewise, it is insane to compare a democratically-elected and committed leader of this country to its most deadly assailants. The only reason why Prager thought up such a farcical and far-fetched allusion in the first place is that Ellison is Muslim. It is inconceivable that he would have invoked the 9-11 terrorist attack had Ellison ascribed to any faith other than Islam.
Secondly, what is with the Bible litmus test?
Since when does America stipulate that its elected officials must show loyalty to a specific theology before they can be loyal citizens and trustworthy public officers? How can a self-describing American patriot further a proposition that so grossly undermines the very principles of America?
Indeed, one needs dig no deeper than the very title of Prager's column to excavate the morbid irony in his two-faced treatise: "America, Not Keith Ellison, decides what book a congressman takes his oath on."
OK, so what does the U.S. Constitution – a.k.a. America - decide for Ellison?
The third paragraph of Article VI of the U.S. Constitution reads:
"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
By suggesting that members be compelled to take their oath to defend and uphold the Constitution on the Bible, Prager is advocating that they breach the very oath they are taking, as they are taking it.
It is not Ellison who threatens to "undermine American civilization." It is in fact Prager who is uneasy with our secular democratic politics and our religiously pluralistic society and is demanding that we revert to the standards of some medieval vessel of Christendom. "America is interested in only one book, the Bible," Prager preaches in one of many bizarre lines that seem to dominate his column.
If Prager's extremism scares you, here's the scarier part: Prager is not alone out there. He's just one manifestation of a larger phenomenon that is finding plenty of fertile soil in the post 9-11 hysteria that has gripped our ailing nation.
They come out as self-proclaimed defenders of America, but soon enough, end up spewing vitriolic rhetoric that undermines many of the core values that America stands for.
They bear no compelling or outstanding qualifications. No one ever elected them as official spokespersons for America. Yet on a daily basis, they purport to tell us what America is and what it is not, what our traditions and values should be and what they should not be.
They issue decrees on the rest of us, heaping praise on the "good" (whosoever agrees with them), and character-smearing the "bad" (whosoever disagrees).
They call themselves "politically conservative", but they conserve for America little more than the remnants of the racism and intolerance that once went virtually unchallenged in this country.
They have an aversion to debate, and a dependence on fear-mongering. They tolerate hate and hate tolerance. They cultivate suspicion, feed into stereotypes, and incite xenophobia.
They draw hordes of loyal fans, who are either simple-minded or apologists for hate, like the Pied Piper draws mice.
They inhabit the slums of AM Radio, News Cable talk shows, and the internet blogosphere where they typically come with an abundance of American flags and American Bald Eagles.
Can you say "overcompensation?"
Welcome to the logic-light, fact-free, ratings-driven world of hate media. A world where the Pragers, Becks, Savages, and Coulters, FOX News and Clear Channel win – but America loses.
Message to Prager
Despite my annoyance with the hypocrisy that oozes from the likes of Prager, I think it is worth taking a shot at levelling with the man.
I have immense respect for Christianity as I am an observant Muslim myself. I suspect Keith Ellison feels no differently. Yet, I must inform you that our secular democracy is not governed by an allegiance to the faith of whoever is in the demographic majority or whoever landed on our shores first, but is governed by what many of us affectionately call "our Constitution."
Not only is the United States of America a secular democracy, but on top of that, it neither professes a "state religion" nor a "state bible." If you wish to practice Christianity or any other faith without harassment or persecution, then America is the place for you. But if you crave life under a Bible-ruled government, America is constitutionally prohibited from being that.
The Founding Fathers insisted on the separation of Church and State precisely so that America would never be drawn into the type of inconsequential divisiveness and petty discrimination that had plagued European societies for centuries, the type that you now are so desperately trying to provoke with your anti-American, half-baked sermons. Hate will make you do wonders – and argue blunders.
In naked terms, your antiquated argument is calling for the first-ever, state-sanctioned, faith-based class hierarchy among American citizens in which believers in the New Testament would be first-class citizens and believers in the Qur'an or the Torah, second-class citizens – or in other words, tagalong citizens.
In order to justify such a ludicrous prospect, you resort to an equally ludicrous analogy, stating that we would surely not allow a racist to swear his oath on "Mein Kampf," the Nazis' bible. This severely misguided comparison only exposes your scorching irreverence for Islam, an operable faith practiced by 8 million Americans and 1.4 billion human beings worldwide.
For what it's worth, let me correct you, sir. The Qur'an is not a piece of Nazi-era propaganda; rather, it is "the bible of one of the World's mainstream faiths". It is not suitably compared - however arbitrarily - to Hitler's autobiography. It is more reasonably classified with the Christian Bible, also "the bible of one of the World's mainstream faiths."
When your contempt for Muslims beats stronger than your love for America—denying logic, rewriting history, and undermining our constitution in the process—you not only become a liability to Muslims, but to all Americans, serving only to relegate yourself to the infamous sections of our history books.
copyright © 2006, CAIR-Chicago
In the News
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December 5, 2006
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View reports of ongoing progress for cases with the Civil Rights Department in the "Progress Report" section.
Citizenship Delay Project - Religious Discrimination Delays Citizenship Process:
As a joint effort with the Arab American Action Network (AAAN), the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), and Competition Law Groups, CAIR-Chicago is asking individuals who have been delayed in obtaining citizenship to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Travel Free Project - Muslim Americans Detained and Questioned When Traveling Outside of the U.S.:
If you are a Muslim woman who practices wearing hijab, and have been singled out at the airport for allegedly random searches, while observing that other travelers not wearing hijab were not singled out, please contact email@example.com.
CAIR-Chicago's Third Annual Event is set to take place Inshallah on Sunday, February 11th, 2007 at The Drury Lane Theatre in Oak Brook. Please mark your calendars and show your support by attending that day.
We are recruiting volunteers to help with this event, If you are interested in helping a chapter of the largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group in the country, please contact our event planner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Muhammad Salah trial is open to the public. Your courtroom attendance is encouraged.
Why your attendance is important: The Muhammad Salah Trial is of immense importance for supporters of anti-torture, due process, and rule of law. It marks the first case where an American court has allowed the prosecution of an American citizen based on an admission obtained under torture in a foreign country and in a language the defendant does not understand.
Mr. Muhammad, a long time Chicago-land resident, was arrested, tried, and jailed for several years while administering charitable aid to victims of the war-ravaged Palestinian territories. He was accused by the Israeli government of supporting terrorism.
For many observers, the Muhammad Salah case amounts to political persecution.
This Week's Schedule
Are you an Undergraduate or Graduate Student Looking to Earn College Credit While Interning at CAIR-Chicago?
CAIR-Chicago, the local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), is currently offering 18 new internship opportunities. CAIR is the nation's largest Muslim civil rights organization. The organization's mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
All internships are unpaid. Internships last one semester and include a 12-hour/week commitment. Applicants should email a resume and cover letter to Dina Rehab, Outreach Coordinator, at: email@example.com.
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