Muslim Converts Face Discrimination

By ANDREA ELLIOTT In the wake of 9/11, Muslim immigrants from Pakistan, Egypt and other countries have found themselves living in a newly suspicious America. Many of their businesses and mosques have been closely monitored by federal agents, thousands of men have been deported and some have simply been swept away – “rendered” in the language of the C.I.A. – to be interrogated or jailed overseas. But Muslim immigrants are not alone in experiencing the change. It is now touching the lives of some American converts: men and women raised in this country, whose only tie to the Middle East or Southeast Asia is one of faith. Khalid Hakim, born Charles Karolik in Milwaukee, could not renew the document required to work as a merchant mariner because he refused to remove his kufi, a round knitted cap, for an identity photograph last year. Yet for nearly three decades Mr. Hakim’s cap had posed no problem with the same New York City office of the Coast Guard. In Brooklyn, Dierdre Small and Stephanie Lewis drove New York City Transit buses for years wearing their hijabs, or head scarves, with no protest from supervisors. After 9/11 the women were ordered to remove the religious garments. They refused, and were transferred, along with two other Muslim converts, out of the public eye – to jobs vacuuming, cleaning and parking buses, said the women, who are suing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New York City Transit. “I’m a U.S. citizen and I’m supposed to be protected,” Ms. Lewis, 55, said with tears in her eyes. “On 9/11 I was scheduled to take policemen to that site. I felt compassion like everyone else. And now you’re singling me out because I’m a Muslim?” New York City Transit officials said they would not comment because the case is in litigation. Regardless of how their cases play out legally, Mr. Hakim, Ms. Lewis and other converts have come to view America after 9/11 through a singular lens. An estimated 25 percent of American Muslims are converts. Some came of age as Americans first and discovered Islam as adults.

Us Muslims Sue Gov’t Over Border Detentions

US Muslims sued the US Department of Homeland Security, accusing the US border agents of rights violation and racial profiling. The suit, filed in US District Court on Wednesday, April 20, named Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff among four defendants in what the New York Civil Liberties Union called a case of profiling, according to Reuters on Thursday, April 21. The three men and two women said the agents who detained them as they returned from an Islamic conference in Canada violated their rights, held them, along with dozens of other US Muslims. They added that they were interrogated, photographed and fingerprinted against their will in December 2004. The lawsuit alleges that the plaintiffs, who were later released without charge, were singled out after telling customs officials they had attended a “Reviving the Islamic Spirit” conference in Toronto. The suit does not seek monetary damages, but asks for a declaration that the government action was unlawful, an injunction against further enforcement of such policies and practices and erasing from all federal databases of information obtained from the plaintiffs, Reuters reported. The annual conference draws thousands of Muslims from Canada, the United States and overseas, AFP said. A May 2004 report released by the US Senate Office Of Research concluded that Arab Americans and the Muslim community in the US have taken the brunt of the Patriot Act and other federal powers applied in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Amnesty International said that racial profiling by US law enforcement agencies had grown over the past years to cover one in nine Americans, mostly targeting Muslims. ‘Most Humiliating’ Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union which is helping represent the plaintiffs, condemned what she described as the “over-zealous and counter-productive ethnic and religious profiling” encouraged by government security policies in the wake of the September 11 attacks. “They are engaging in profiling,” said Lieberman, adding that “the government detained people because they attended a conference that was perfectly legal, exercising their basic rights.” None of the citizens who were detained had done anything unlawful, nor were they charged with any unlawful act,” Lieberman told reporters. “You don’t lose your rights when you’re a Muslim. You don’t lose your rights when you cross a border, and you certainly don’t lose your rights by attending a religious conference,” she added. One of the plaintiffs, Sawsaan Tabbaa, an orthodontist from Buffalo in New York, said the experience at the border crossing “was the most humiliating I have ever gone through.” “It was unbelievable. I am proud of being American but I couldn’t believe my eyes something like this could happen.” Tabbaa said she had refused to be digitally fingerprinted on the grounds that she had done nothing wrong, but was physically forced into compliance. “I started sobbing like a kid,” she said. At the time of the incident, numerous press reports quoted Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokeswoman Kristie Clemens as claiming the government had “credible information” that Islamic conferences were being used to promote and fund terrorist activities. On Wednesday, Clemens said she was unable to comment on a specific case that was the subject of a lawsuit, but added that the “priority mission” of the CBP was to “prevent terrorists” and their weapons entering the country. “As we continue to pursue this mission, we will continue to work with all communities to protect the freedoms of all Americans,” she said. Islamic Leaders Vehemently Deny The Charges. Tabbaa’s son, Hassan Shibley, 18, said the border guards had initially insisted they were picked “at random”, but when he entered the processing room he saw that all the occupants were Muslim. “It was like I was walking into my local mosque,” Shibley said. Lieberman, whose organization filed the suit along with the American Civil Liberties Union and Council on American-Islamic Relations, said there was nothing about the RIS conference to raise suspicions. “If the government has suspicions about criminal activities they have every right and indeed the obligation to go after those suspicions,” Lieberman said. “This is a case of rounding up the usual suspects in derogation of their rights and in derogation of all of our liberties.” A recent nation-wide poll, conducted by the Cornell University, showed that at least 44 percent of the Americans backs curbing Muslims’ civil rights and monitoring their places of worship.

9-Year Old Muslim Girl Must Participate In Swimming: Politicians Of All Parties Welcome The Decision Of The Hamburg Administrative Court.

A nine year-old girl from Pakistan must participate in the swimming lessons at the school with the boys, decided the Administrative Court. In the controversy between education authorities and strict Muslims, this is the first judgment for a child of this age group. “I welcome the decision, which leaves nothing to be desired in its clarity”, said Educational Senator Alexandra Dinges-Dierig. Appealing the decision of the Administrative Court, the parents of the girl already lodged a complaint with the higher administrative court. The parents had refused the participation of their daughter in the school swimming lessons, claiming it was a sin. Wearing a bathing suit contradicts the regulations of Islam. The family belongs to the sect of the Ahmadiyya, which developed in India near the end of the 19th Century. {(continued in German)} Ein neun Jahre altes M_dchen pakistanischer Herkunft mufl am Schwimmunterricht in der Schule zusammen mit Jungen teilnehmen. Das hat das Verwaltungsgericht entschieden. In dem Streit zwischen Bildungsbeh_rde und strenggl_ubigen Muslimen ist es das erste Urteil f_r ein Kind dieser Altersgruppe. “Ich begr_fle die Entscheidung, die an Klarheit nichts zu w_nschen _brigl_flt”, sagte Bildungssenatorin Alexandra Dinges-Dierig. Gegen die Entscheidung des Verwaltungsgerichts haben die Eltern des M_dchens bereits Beschwerde beim Oberverwaltungsgericht eingelegt. Die Eltern hatten die Teilnahme ihrer Tochter am Schulschwimmen mit der Begr_ndung verweigert, dafl das nach ihrer Religion eine S_nde sei. Das Tragen von Badekleidung widerspreche den Vorschriften des Islam. Die Familie geh_rt der Glaubensrichtung der Ahmadiyya an, die Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts in Indien entstand. Das Verwaltungsgericht machte in seiner Entscheidung deutlich, dafl die Schulpflicht das Schulschwimmen umfasse. In der Abw_gung zwischen dem Erziehungsauftrag des Staates und der Religionsfreiheit geb_hre dem schulischen Erziehungsauftrag der Vorrang. Der Sportunterricht erf_lle dabei wichtige Erziehungsaufgaben. Der gemeinsame Unterricht von Jungen und M_dchen diene auch dazu, die Gleichberechtigung von Mann und Frau zu verankern. Zentrales Moment der Entscheidung ist das Alter des Kindes. Das Gericht verweist darauf, dafl die Bekleidungsvorschriften des Korans nicht f_r M_dchen vor der Geschlechtsreife gelten. Das steht im Einklang mit der Rechtsprechung des Bundesverwaltungsgerichts, das zugunsten der Familie eines _lteren muslimischen M_dchens entschieden hatte, das vom Schwimmunterricht befreit ist. Nach Informationen des Abendblatts besucht das neunj_hrige M_dchen die dritte Klasse einer Grundschule in M_mmelmannsberg. Zu Beginn des Schuljahres hatten sich die Eltern geweigert, ihr Kind am Schwimmunterricht teilnehmen zu lassen. Gespr_che der Schulleitung und von Mitarbeitern der Beratungsstelle REBUS mit den Eltern f_hrten zu keinem Erfolg. Schliefllich leitete die Beh_rde ein Buflgeldverfahren ein. Die Bildungsexperten von CDU, SPD und GAL begr_flten die Entscheidung. “Wir sind daf_r, die Schulpflicht in allen Punkten durchzusetzen”, sagte Robert Heinemann (CDU). “Das Gericht beweist, dafl die Schulpflicht ohne Gesetzesversch_rfung durchgesetzt werden kann”, sagte Britta Ernst (SPD), die damit auf die vom Senat geplante Einf_hrung des Schulzwangs anspielt. “Die Entscheidung ist pikant, weil die Beh_rde die faktische Abschaffung des Schulschwimmens durch die Einf_hrung von Geb_hren betreibt”, sagte Christa Goetsch (GAL). Hakki Keskin, Chef der “T_rkischen Gemeinden in Deutschland” freut sich _ber den Richterspruch: “Ich begr_fle die Entscheidung. Sie schafft Klarheit. Nur so kann die Schulpflicht von jedem erf_llt werden.” Der Islam gew_hre eine Flexibilit_t je nach den gegebenen Umst_nden.

U.S. Case Against Muslim Scholar Is Religious Attack: Defense

By MATTHEW BARAKAT, Associated Press Writer ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The government’s prosecution of a prominent Islamic scholar accused of recruiting for the Taliban in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks is an assault on religious freedom, a defense lawyer said Monday during the trial’s closing arguments. “The government wants you to think Islam is your enemy,” said Edward MacMahon, who represents Ali al-Timimi, 41, of Fairfax. “They want you to dislike him so much because of what he said that you’ll ignore the lack of evidence.” Prosecutors, on the other hand, said al-Timimi is on trial not because of unpopular political or religious views but because he specifically urged his followers to take up arms against U.S. troops just five days after the 9-11 attacks, and because several of them traveled half way around the world with just that intent. “When Tony Soprano says ‘Go whack that guy,’ it’s not protected speech,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg, drawing a comparison between al-Timimi and the fictional mob boss. Al-Timimi, a native-born U.S. citizen who has an international reputation in some Islamic circles, is facing a 10-count indictment that includes charges of soliciting others to levy war against the United States and attempting to aid the Taliban. The jury began deliberations Monday afternoon after hearing two weeks of testimony. If convicted, al-Timimi faces up to life in prison. The government contends that al-Timimi told his followers during a secret meeting on Sept. 16, 2001, that they were obliged as Muslims to defend the Taliban against a looming U.S. invasion. Just days after that meeting, four of those in attendance flew to Pakistan and joined a militant group called Lashkar-e-Taiba. Three of the four testified at al-Timimi’s trial that their goal had been to obtain military training at the Lashkar camp and then cross the border to Afghanistan and join the Taliban. It was al-Timimi who inspired them to do so, the men testified. None Of The Men Actually Made It To Afghanistan. Kromberg said at the trial’s outset that al-Timimi enjoyed “rock star” status among his followers. On Monday he said al-Timimi knew that the men at the Sept. 16 meeting–many of whom had played paintball games in 2000 and 2001 as a means to train for holy war around the globe–would do as he instructed them. “These guys couldn’t figure out how to tie their shoelaces without al-Timimi,” Kromberg said. But MacMahon said that al-Timimi merely counseled the men to leave the United States because it might be difficult to practice their religion in America in a post-Sept. 11 environment. The three men who testified against al-Timimi at trial, he said, are all lying because they struck plea bargains with the government and are hoping to get their sentences reduced in exchange for helping the government. MacMahon said it was two other men, Yong Ki Kwon and Randall Royer, who were the ones recruiting paintball members to join Lashkar-e-Taiba. Kwon, for instance, admitted that he and Royer had met a LET recruiter in the spring of 2001 on a pilgrimage to Mecca. Kwon also acknowledged that Royer had previously trained in Pakistan with Lashkar and that he had frequently encouraged others to join LET well before Sept. 11 and well before the government alleges al-Timimi’s criminal conduct. MacMahon pointed out to jurors that Kwon–one of the four who allegedly traveled to Pakistan at al-Timimi’s urging–had placed 25 phone calls to the other three in the three days before al-Timimi allegedly made his first exhortation on the Taliban’s behalf. The government’s case, MacMahon said, is built on a misperception that Islam is a sinister religion and its practitioners deserve strict scrutiny. “Are you appalled that the federal government is reading the Quran to you” at this trial? MacMahon asked the jurors. The prosecution of al-Timimi “is a fundamental assault on the liberties we all hold so dear. … If you don’t believe our freedoms are under attack by this prosecution, you haven’t been sitting here.” Kromberg disputed the notion that the government was casting aspersions on all Muslims. “Ali Timimi does not speak for all Muslims. Ali Timimi speaks for his sect of Salafi Muslims,” Kromberg said, referring to a sect of the religion often equated to Wahhabism, a puritanical form of Islam practiced by many of the leading clerics in Saudi Arabia, where al-Timimi once studied.

Election Of Muslims A Start To Changing Gop’s Image; Dupage Party Aims For More Diversity

By John Biemer Tribune staff reporter No one would mistake a gathering of DuPage County Republicans for the United Nations, but the party took a significant step last week toward shaking its image as a party dominated by “old white-haired men” when Moin Moon Khan and Esin Busche were elected township trustees. Party officials say as far as they can tell, Khan, an Indian-born longtime Chicago-area activist who works as a computer network administrator, and Busche, a Turkish-born chemist, are the first Muslim Republicans elected to public office anywhere in the state–and a symbol of the party’s new outreach effort in a rapidly diversifying county. “This is a small office, and for me it may be a very small individual achievement,” said Khan. “However, I think it’s a giant milestone for the minority communities in general and the Muslim American community in particular.” Rasheed Ahmed, coordinator of the Illinois Muslim Political Coordinating Council, also called their elections “an important milestone,” but noted that there are hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Illinois–and an estimated 6 million to 8 million across the United States. “It’s only natural,” he said. “I’m not surprised. One could say perhaps that it’s even late.” Khan, who lives in Lombard, won a York Township trustee seat last week with 12.6 percent of the vote. He finished last out of the four Republicans elected trustee, beating out Bob Wagner, who came closest of four Democratic trustee candidates with 11.8 percent of the vote. Busche, who lives in Naperville, was elected Naperville Township trustee last week with 17.9 percent of the vote–also last among four Republicans elected to that office, but five points ahead of the closest Democrat. Republicans won every one of the 72 township offices on the DuPage ballot in last week’s municipal election, so having the support of such a well-entrenched political organization didn’t hurt. Both Khan and Busche served as GOP committeemen for a handful of years before making their runs. Muslims don’t tend to naturally gravitate to either party, Ahmed said, because there are parts of both the Democratic and Republican positions that appeal to them. But Khan pledged as a candidate to reach out to a variety of immigrants that he says make up a sizable chunk of the tax base in his district, although they are underrepresented in government. That message resonated beyond the Muslim community–but so did Khan’s decades of work for such organizations as the DuPage Minority Caucus, the Asian American Institute and the Council of Islamic Organizations in Illinois. “I’ve seen him as a person who’s concerned with the welfare of people and such,” said Shanker Pillai, president of the Hindu Chinmaya Mission in Hinsdale. “And in this time of religious and social animosities developing, he’s stood beyond those barriers.” Asian populations in DuPage County have skyrocketed in recent years–growing by 80 percent from 1990 to 2000. As of 2000, Asians made up 7.9 percent of the suburban county, according to the U.S. Census, almost as much as the even faster growing Hispanic community–another group wooed by both political parties. DuPage Democratic Party Chairwoman Gayl Ferraro said her party also has tried to tap into the intensifying political activity of Asian immigrants in recent years. She points to Chodri Khokhar, chair of the Bloomingdale Township Democrats–a Muslim Pakistani immigrant. “We always welcome everybody into our party; we’re very diverse,” Ferraro said. “I’m kind of colorblind when it comes to all that stuff.” Republican officials concede that the GOP did not do a great job in the past of reaching out to new communities. But Paul Hinds, chairman of the York Township Republican Party, said the time has come for the party to better reflect the constituency. “We get pegged too much as 70-year-old white-haired men. That’s a stereotype we always have to work against,” he said. “That’s not what we are.” Still, there were risks involved. Khan acknowledges that Hinds may have displeased some party loyalists when he pushed Khan to run for the post. And party leaders questioned how voters would receive the candidates–noting that their vote counts did lag behind other Republican office-seekers. “I’m not going to kid anyone,” said state Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale), chairman of the DuPage County GOP. “I was worried that someone named Moon Khan would lose to someone named Susan O’Brien or Robert Wagner. But if Barack Obama could win, Moon Khan should clearly win, and he did.” “I know my name was quite different from other people,” Busche said in agreement. “But I tried to introduce myself to people in my community. I guess people, once they get to know you, the name doesn’t play any part.”