CHICAGO TRIBUNE: "CHICAGO MUSLIMS, MEMBERS OF THE LEBANESE COMMUNITY, SPEAK OUT"
By Margaret Ramirez
Tribune religion reporter
July 19, 2006
During frantic phone conversations with her family in Lebanon, Christina Abraham learned how Israeli forces were bombing the predominantly Christian neighborhood of Ashrafiya. She heard how her cousins were trapped for days in an underground bomb shelter, unsure if they would survive the battle raging between Israel and Hezbollah.
With a mix of emotions ranging from worry to rage, Abraham spoke Thursday at a news conference organized by Chicago's Muslim leaders and joined them in calling on the United States to halt the violence.
"To kill hundreds of civilians for the sake of two captured Israeli soldiers—who are still alive—is to desecrate the sanctity of human life," said Abraham, 25, a DePaul University law student and civil rights coordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Chicago.
"Israel justifies this attack by saying they are targeting Hezbollah," she said. "But the Beirut airport is not Hezbollah. The medical supply trucks are not Hezbollah. The children that are dying are not Hezbollah."
At the news conference held at Chicago's Downtown Islamic Center, Muslim community leaders said many Lebanese-Americans feel betrayed by U.S. support of Israel and the Bush administration's opposition to a cease fire. Muslim and Arab leaders are planning a rally for noon Saturday at Pioneer Court on North Michigan Avenue to denounce attacks on Lebanon.
Leaders of Chicago's Jewish community, meanwhile, said they continue to support Israel's actions to defend their nation. Todd Winer, director of public relations and communications for the American Jewish Committee in Chicago, said a cease fire would play directly into the hands of Hezbollah.
"How do you have a cease fire with a terrorist group?" Winer said. "Hezbollah soldiers continue to attack Israel and in response, Israel rightly feels the need to get rid of the Hezbollah presence in Beirut."
Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said his organization accepts the U.S. designation of Hezbollah as a terrorist group but the Muslim community does not support killing civilians who have no relationship to Hezbollah.
"We are speaking out to condemn the killing of close to 400 civilians, with no ties to Hezbollah," Rehab said. "Israel has destroyed much of Lebanon's infrastructure from bridges to power plants to homes and villages; 50,000 civilians have been displaced, a humanitarian crisis is in the making."
Lebanon's population is a diverse religious mix with Muslims and Christians making up the majority, and smaller communities belonging to the Jewish and Bahai faith, according to the Association of Religion Data Archives. There are about 25,000 U.S. citizens in Lebanon, most of them of Arab or Muslim descent, community leaders said.
Rehab said members of Chicago's Lebanese community believe the sluggish evacuation process for U.S. citizens and failure to request a cease fire suggest the Bush administration has a double standard for Arab-Americans.
"The unwillingness to call for a cease fire gives the impression that the administration places less value on the lives of American citizens of Arab descent," Rehab said. "The administration should have one standard regarding the value of life and one definition of terrorism."
Also Thursday, the National Council of Churches issued a statement calling for an end to the violence. Pope Benedict XVI similarly called for "an immediate cease fire" to allow humanitarian aid to get to the innocent victims of the violence.
"In reality, the Lebanese have the right to see the integrity and sovereignty of their country respected, the Israelis the right to live in peace in their state, and the Palestinians have the right to have their own free and sovereign homeland," the pope said in a release from the Vatican Information Service.
The pontiff also proclaimed this Sunday a special day of prayer and penance, inviting Catholic priests and parishioners to pray for peace.
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
See Press Conference Photos
CAIR-CHICAGO COMMUNICATIONS COORDINATOR ATTENDS MLT CONFERENCE IN DENMARK
July 28, 2006
Through the echoes of conflict and warfare a voice of collective reason, moderation, and resolve rose to assume the challenges of a new world. The "Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow" (MLT) Conference of 2006 has positioned a fresh response aimed at reshaping the context of the adverse circumstances of global Muslim communities in order to establish alternative settings for their benefit and progress.
"Challenges of dogmatic traditionalism bring rise to the need for transparent interpretation within contemporary contexts," said Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf during the ‘Imam's Circle,' of the Conference program. "Your right to belong should not be questioned if I disagree with you in my views," stated a panelist on the ‘Construct your Identity' panel. "On what basis do you integrate into an identity catastrophe?" questioned another panelist.
From July 7th to the 10th, over 100 participants of diverse backgrounds selected from 16 countries gathered in Copenhagen, Denmark - the epicenter of the 'Prophet Muhammad Cartoon Controversy'- for the annual Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow (MLT) conference.
Muslim activists from Australia, Belgium, Bosnia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States and others were present to share wisdom and strategic solutions toward Muslim advancement.
The event took place at the Radisson Scandinavia Hotel in the heart of Copenhagen just blocks away from a highly populated restaurant district and the Tivoli Gardens, a famous tourist attraction.
The program notably commenced on the anniversary of the 7/7 London bombings and against the backdrop of other recent world traumas including the 3/11 Madrid bombings, war in Iraq, war in Afghanistan, the Paris riots, mounting tensions in the Middle East–Israeli conflict and the 9/11 atrocities.
Daisy Khan, Conference organizer and Executive Director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA Society), described participants as "an impressive group of emerging leaders [who] embody a wide spectrum of Muslims by sect, ethnicity, profession, religiosity, and individual politics." The 2006 MLT participants were called upon to meet an urgent need for a constructive movement amongst young Muslims that would target and marginalize extremism. (For a comprehensive listing of participants view: http://www.asmasociety.org/mlt2006/
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, founder of the ASMA Society and the Cordoba Initiative, launched these religious and educational organizations for the purpose of building bridges between American Muslims and the American public. The mission is implemented through activities in culture, arts, academia and current affairs.
The 2006 MLT participants discussed key issues concerning Muslims in the West. Muslim identity, immigrant marginalization, Islamic reactions to secularism and gender equality in Islam were among some of the topics.
"The 2006 MLT conference provided a forum that fostered a space of tolerance and mutual respect without compromising individual freedom of expression," said CAIR-Chicago's Communications Coordinator, Sultan Muhammad. Muhammad was selected to participate in conference discussions as a panelist in the 'Media and Islam' program segment.
"Muslims should resist self-censorship and engage the media. We should seek to break the Orientalist frame as the other by seizing opportunities for self-definition provided by the rise in the Western public's interest in Islam and Muslims," Sultan said.
The program consisted of presentations and analytical exercises designed to provide outreach strategies, intra-community partnerships, and organizational development. The exercises were aimed at precipitating measurable change within the participants' prospective institutional reach.
The event served to bring a variety of active Muslim academics, authors, organizers, and leaders that may never have shared the same panel, let alone the same room for constructive debate. Muslim comedian Azhar Usman joked "Where will you ever see the author of 'What's Right with Islam' and the author of 'The Trouble with Islam Today' sitting at the same table?"
Candid debate and spirited analysis of the advantages and shortcomings of Muslim participation in the current discourse on Islam and Muslims in the West marked the tone of events. By all assessments, the Muslim leaders and activists in attendance were determined to show that Muslims are a part of the solution and not a part of the problem.
The weekend culminated with the 'Freedom of Expression' panel at which a surprise guest was introduced. The guest was none other than Flemming Rose, Jyllands-Posten's culture editor, the instrumental figure behind the publishing of the controversial 'Prophet Muhammad Cartoons.' Although unapologetic about his decision to publish the cartoons, Rose shared with the audience that his experience was pleasant and civil.
For additional information and a detailed list of participant biographies view the following links:
CAFE FINJAN: MUSLIM AND JEWISH OPEN MIC
July 20, 2006
Cafe Finjan is a series of interfaith arts exchanges, begun in 2004 by the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs (JCUA) as part of its Jewish-Muslim Community-Building Initiative post 9-11. The goal of the series is to establish points of contact and nurture a greater understanding between Jews and Muslims of Chicago by creating spaces for Jews, Muslims, and others of diverse backgrounds to come together and give voice to their identity and experience as part of a larger community.
Given recent events in Palestine/Israel and Lebanon, this already unique program was even more unique in spirit as approximately 150 Chicagoans gathered to watch a lineup of performers of both the Jewish and Muslim faiths. Muslims and Jews of the Chicagoland area reaffirmed their keen desire to continue in the spirit of dialogue and sharing. Performers included comedians, such as Azhar Usman, singers, and poetry reciters, each reflecting on their personal experiences on what it means to be Jewish or Muslim in our world today. Other performers dedicated their performance time to a call for peace. Performers and attendees all prayed for peace in the Middle East.
Sponsoring organizations: American Muslims for Activism and Learning (AMAL), Council on American-Islamic Relations, Chicago Chapter (CAIR-Chicago), Council for the Advancement of Muslim Professionals, Chicago Chapter (CAMP-Chicago), Jewish Council on Urban Affairs (JCUA).
See Event Photos
CIVIL RIGHTS UPDATE: PROTECTING MUSLIM-AMERICANS AGAINST HATE CRIMES
By Heena Musabji
CAIR-Chicago Staff Attorney
July 24, 2006
"Today is a sad day," began the judge's decision on June 30th of this year. "It is sad to see that such prejudice still exists in the southwest suburbs." He nodded his head in disapproval, "and you know neither of you are right in this situation." This prelude to the judge's verdict stemmed from a series of events that occurred on April 18th of this year.
Laila* was at a McDonald's play area with her three children. While engaged with her children she noticed a group of young men in the area looking at her. They walked passed her once and remained in close proximity. Shortly after, one of the young men, Matt, walked toward her a second time, and as he passed he pulled Laila's hijab (headscarf) from her head.
Matt and his friends ran laughing into an adjacent bathroom. Laila froze in shock. She could not believe she was humiliated in this way, especially in front of her children. Matt ran out of the McDonald's to his car and drove away. The manager at the McDonald's ran after him and was able to obtain his license plate number. Laila, still distressed by the incident called her husband, Adam, to relay what had just happened. Adam told her to remain there and said he would be there shortly. The police were called, and as they obtainined details from Laila and the witnesses, Matt returned to the scene. Matt's friends were still present at the McDonalds and in the parking lot. The police arrested Matt and charged him with a hate crime. The State's Attorney later brought the charges down to a battery.
Adam asked his friend, Hassan, to go to the McDonald's and be with Laila and the kids until he got there. Hassan came to the McDonalds and helped Laila get her children in the car. The parking lot was full of Matt's friends and other teenagers. A teenager, Dan, who was in the play area with Matt earlier, along with others, shouted at Laila and Hassan. Dan and the teenagers told them "go back to where they came from," and called them "sand niggers" and "camel jockeys." Dan stuck his head out his parked car and yelled for Hassan to go ahead and hit him. Laila's children were upset and crying. Adam then pulled into the McDonald's parking lot. He saw his children crying, his wife frightened and his friend being taunted. He asked his wife if she was alright, and took baseball bat out of his car and held it by his side. Dan and his friends saw the bat, and ran out of the car. Dan went into the McDonalds and called the police. Adam waited for the police and is arrested and charged with aggravated assault.
At the hearing for the battery committed against Laila, Matt pled guilty to the charges in exchange for 12 months of supervision, 10 day participation in the Sheriff's Work Alternative Program (SWAP), and 40 hours of sensitivity training and community service supervised by CAIR-Chicago.
The trial for Adam's aggravated assault against the teenagers took place after Laila's trial, which brings us back to the aforementioned judgment on June 30th. The judge goes on, "Here we are at the start of Fourth of July weekend where we celebrate our freedom. How ironic it is that this case is before me today." Adam was found not guilty. The judge sympathized with Adam's reaction to the harassment of his family, but stated that Adam's willinginess to the law into his own hands was not appropriate.
I must give credit to Muslim-Americans like Laila and the aforementioned family who stand up to those who violate them, and continue through the often lengthy legal process in the hopes of finding some justice. I recognize Adam's struggle to protect his family, and commend his ability to show restraint and comply with law enforcement. However, that leads to the question as to why these crimes committed against American Muslims fail to be consistently categorized as what they are: hate crimes.
A crime is considered a hate crime when it is committed because of the actual or perceived race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, or national origin. 720 ILCS 5/12-7.1. All too often, we see that crimes fitting this definition are not prosecuted as such, and this does not only apply to Muslim-Americans. Repeatedly, it is reported in the news that crimes against marginalized or minority groups which blatantly scream motivation by hate and intolerance are not seen as such by officials. Perhaps, officials have just reasoning behind making such decisions, but it is important to understand this reasoning. With this story I would like to announce the launch of CAIR-Chicago Civil Rights Department's Hate Crimes Project.
The Hate Crimes Project hopes to ensure that hate crimes are charged and prosecuted as such. By watching how hate crimes are charged, investigating when officials decide to charge a crime as a hate crime and when they chose to call it a lesser offense, determining the reasoning behind such categorization, and convincing officials to charge applicable crimes as hate crimes we hope to bring greater justice to our constituents.
I share Laila's story with you to illustrate that justice does exist, and by coming forward and having the courage to reassert your dignity, when it is much easier to do nothing, you can affirm to decision makers that crimes such as these are racially motivated and the offenders should be punished accordingly.
* names have been changed to maintain confidentiality of all parties involved.
CHICAGO EFFORTS PROVE IMMIGRANTS' RIGHTS MOVEMENT IS STILL STRONG
July 19, 2006
LIVE From Chicago:
Despite the House’s decision to push off immigration reform until possibly after the November election, the immigrants’ rights movement remains stronger than ever. Rallies around the country in May garnered support from immigrants and activists alike and the momentum continues to grow with efforts from local organizations.
In Chicago, a major rally organized by Centro Sin Frontreras, a Chicago-based organization dedicated to offering services to Latino immigrants, is causing Jackson Boulevard in downtown Chicago to shut down as we write. Such efforts have kept comprehensive immigration reform from falling to the backburner as issues often do.
“Si, se puede”, yes we can, was heard once again in the streets of downtown as activists and immigrants marched with American flags, posters, and signs, demanding the voices of protesters to be heard.
Meanwhile, there have been active efforts throughout Illinois to keep the momentum strong after May 1. Recent events have included a National Day of Citizenship held on July 1, 2006 at Little Village High School. The event was organized by member organizations of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago), Muslim Women’s Resource Center, Southwest Organizing Project, and many other organizations. In addition, a groundbreaking campaign was launched that day.
All eyes have turned to the immigrant community. Everyone wants to know if, after all the rallies and protests, proponents of comprehensive immigration reform will win their agenda. With the elections coming up in November, CAIR-Chicago, ICIRR, SWOP, and fifteen other organizations have spearheaded the New Americans Democracy Project (NADP). The NADP is a project where ICIRR and host organizations work fulltime with a fellow hired full time to register voters and mobilize people to the polls.
CAIR-Chicago, as a host organization, is working in the third congressional district where fellow Haady Taslim is working to mobilize the American Muslim community in Bridgeview around the issues of comprehensive immigration reform, as well as a unique issue that affects the community there: citizenship delay. "We are at a critical point in American history where the American Muslim community, as well as other immigrant communities, are waking up and realizing their full potential as Americans," said CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab. "The right to vote and to participate actively in the political process is a part of what it is to be American and it is our duty, as Americans, to help our communities understand that such privilege comes with certain responsibilities such as advocating for the rights of those who need our help."
For American Muslims, voter mobilization is a key way to educate the community regarding the problem many Muslim men face when going through the citizenship process. Some have been waiting for more than two years for their background checks to come back from the FBI. "Mobilizing around such issues sheds light onto the real problem and creates a sense of responsibility for people who are already citizens," stated CAIR-Chicago Governmental Relations Coordinator Sadiya Ahmed. "It mobilizes people around an issue specific to their community and empowers them with the ability to help their fellow community members."
From people taking over the streets demanding comprehensive immigration reform, to empowering people to turn out at the polls in record numbers, the immigration debate is not likely to die down anytime soon. "The rallies and all the work that has been done until now is only the tip of the iceberg. The real power of immigrants is only beginning to hit us all. It will hit us full force on election day, when thousands of people mobilize to the polls in favor of comprehensive immigration reform," said Ahmed.
CHICAGO MUSLIMS CALL ON BUSH TO PROTECT RELATIVES
July 18, 2006
(Chicago, IL 7/18/2006) - On Thursday, July 20th 2006, the Chicago Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago) will hold a news conference with members of the local Muslim and Arab-American communities who have relatives under attack in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.
At the news conference, community members will ask President Bush to call for an immediate cease-fire by all parties in the Middle East conflict and urge that humanitarian relief be sent to areas devastated by Israel's bombing campaigns.
WHAT: CAIR-Chicago News Conference with Those who Have Relatives in Lebanon, Gaza
WHEN: Thursday, July 20th 2006 - 11:00AM
WHERE: Downtown Islamic Center (DIC), 231 S. State St., Chicago, (312) 939-9095
CONTACT: Ahmed Rehab, Executive Director (847) 971-3963 or (312) 212-1520
There are an estimated 25,000 American citizens in Lebanon, and many American citizens, both Christian and Muslim, have relatives in Lebanon and Gaza. Despite the fact that many civilians have already been killed in Israeli attacks on the civilian infrastructures of both areas, President Bush has rejected calls for a cease-fire.
Plans to evacuate American citizens from Lebanon have been criticized as too slow. The U.S. government will also bill each evacuee for the cost of their transport out of Lebanon.
"It is inconceivable that our government refuses to request a cease-fire even as hundreds of civilian victims are falling prey to the massive scale Israeli strikes on Lebanon and Gaza. Our double standard gives off the impression that Muslim and Arab lives are somehow less valuable than Israeli lives," said CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab. "Targeting civilians in furtherance of a political goal is terrorism, whether the target is a pizza parlor in Tel Aviv or a residential quarter in Beirut."
Please be advised that there will also be a community rally in support of the Lebanese and Gazan civilian victims of Israel’s bombings this Saturday at Noon at the Tribune Plaza, details to follow.
CAIR, America's largest Muslim civil liberties group, has 32 offices, chapters and affiliates nationwide and in Canada. Its 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.
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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), CAIR-Chicago is asking individuals who passed a citizenship examination and have been waiting for over 90 days, or have been waiting for a Green Card for permanent residence for over 90 days to contact us at either email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Travel Free Project - Muslim Americans Detained and Questioned When Traveling Outside of the U.S.:
As part of a potential class action law suit, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and CAIR-Chicago is asking anyone who has been detained and questioned on return to the US at any border crossing (land or airport) to please contact email@example.com immediately. It is important for Muslims who have faced this type of treatment to join the lawsuit so as to show that it is not an isolated case. The more people that join the case the more strength it will have to force positive changes in how Muslim Americans are treated in the future at our borders.
Also, if you are being consistently delayed, detained, or have otherwise had your rights violated while traveling, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Religious Discrimination at Standardized Testing Centers:
As part of a potential class action law suit, CAIR-Chicago is asking for anyone who has experienced any form of religious discrimination at a testing center to please contact us at email@example.com. An example of a possible form of religious discrimination includes requiring or requesting the removal of a headscarf for searches, or discriminatory remarks made by employees about Muslims or Islam.
The facts of the above case are as follows:
A Muslim student was asked to remove her headscarf on two separate occasions at a testing center before she began a standardized test required for graduate school. The supervisor and employees of the testing center refused to show her a written copy of the policy requiring Muslim women wearing a headscarf to be searched. A witness at the testing center also observed the employees making discriminatory remarks about Muslims while the victim was taking the test.
Please let us know if you or someone you know have experienced a similar incident and would like to take action to prevent such forms of religious discrimination at standardized testing centers in the future.
CAIR-Chicago is calling on people of conscience to call their congressional representatives and encourage them to vote YES on H.R. 450 and sign on as co-sponsors of the bill. CAIR-Chicago is also encouraging everyone to call Congressmen Rush and Congressmen Davis to commend them of their heroic efforts to end the violence in the Middle East.
CAIR-Chicago Welcomes New Activists to the Team
Sadaf Hameed has joined CAIR-Chicago as an Operations Intern. Sadaf graduated from Islamic Foundation School in Villa Park this past spring, and currently volunteers at Loyola University Medical Center as an Emergency Room Unit Aide. Sadaf is going to attend the College of Dupage this fall and plans on tranferring to Depaul University in 2 years. Sadaf holds a high brown belt in Tae Kwon Do and is planning on pursuing a degree in journalism and law.
Tannia Dubon received her bachelor’s in English Literature and French from DePaul University, and has joined CAIR-Chicago as a Communications Intern Her academic interests in language, culture, and history have led her to pursue a career in civil rights and immigration law. She was previously an intern at the Economic Department of the French Consulate and more recently at the Silk Road Theatre in Chicago. Her internship at CAIR has been a great experience thus far; she has found CAIR to be a safe, intellectually stimulating, and positive environment in which to learn and work. In the Communication department she is able to do what she enjoys most— research, critical analysis, and writing.
Are you an Undergraduate or Graduate Student Looking to Earn College Credit While Interning at CAIR-Chicago?
CAIR-Chicago is currently offering 11 internship opportunities. All internships are unpaid, but students may receive college credit. Applicants need to email a resume and cover letter to Dina Rehab, Outreach Coordinator, at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
CAIR-Chicago is offering the following positions for internships:
Please Contact the Outreach Coordinator for more information on the tasks and duties of specific internships. Call Dina Rehab at 312-212-1520 or at email@example.com
For more information, please contact:
CAIR-Chicago (A Chapter of The Council On American-Islamic Relations)
28 E. Jackson Blvd, Suite 1410, Chicago IL 60604
Phone: 312-212-1520, Fax: 312-212-1530
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Website: www.cairchicago.org
Please email your comments and suggestions to email@example.com If you have received this email directly from
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