U.S. to drop color-doded terror alerts

The Department of Homeland Security is planning to get rid of the color-coded terrorism alert system. Known officially as the Homeland Security Advisory System, the five-color scheme was introduced by the Bush administration in March 2002.

“The goal is to replace a system that communicates nothing,” the agency said, “with a partnership approach with law enforcement, the private sector and the American public that provides specific, actionable information based on the latest intelligence.”

WikiLeaks sheds light on US diplomacy domestically and abroad

A cache of a quarter-million confidential American diplomatic cables, most of them from the past three years, provides an unprecedented look at back-room bargaining by embassies around the world, brutally candid views of foreign leaders and frank assessments of nuclear and terrorist threats.
The material was originally obtained by WikiLeaks, an organization devoted to revealing secret documents. WikiLeaks posted 220 cables, some redacted to protect diplomatic sources, in the first installment of the archive on its Web site on Sunday.

Some of the topics revealed, include:

¶ Bargaining to empty the Guantánamo Bay prison: When American diplomats pressed other countries to resettle detainees, they became reluctant players in a State Department version of “Let’s Make a Deal.” Slovenia was told to take a prisoner if it wanted to meet with President Obama, while the island nation of Kiribati was offered incentives worth millions of dollars to take in Chinese Muslim detainees, cables from diplomats recounted. The Americans, meanwhile, suggested that accepting more prisoners would be “a low-cost way for Belgium to attain prominence in Europe.”

¶ Clashes with Europe over human rights: American officials sharply warned Germany in 2007 not to enforce arrest warrants for Central Intelligence Agency officers involved in a bungled operation in which an innocent German citizen with the same name as a suspected militant was mistakenly kidnapped and held for months in Afghanistan. A senior American diplomat told a German official “that our intention was not to threaten Germany, but rather to urge that the German government weigh carefully at every step of the way the implications for relations with the U.S.”

¶ Mixed records against terrorism: Saudi donors remain the chief financiers of Sunni militant groups like Al Qaeda, and the tiny Persian Gulf state of Qatar, a generous host to the American military for years, was the “worst in the region” in counterterrorism efforts, according to a State Department cable last December. While another cable reveals the suspicions of corruption in the Afghan government: When Afghanistan’s vice president visited the United Arab Emirates last year, local authorities working with the Drug Enforcement Administration discovered that he was carrying $52 million in cash.

The White House said the release of what it called “stolen cables” to several publications was a “reckless and dangerous action” and warned that some cables, if released in full, could disrupt American operations abroad and put the work and even lives of confidential sources of American diplomats at risk.

Somali-born teen held in Oregon car-bomb plot

Federal law enforcement officials arrested Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, and accused him of plotting to bomb the square during a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon. The charges against Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a Somali-born 19-year-old who was caught in a federal sting operation, are testing tolerance in a state that has been largely accepting of Muslims.

Many questions remain about the extent of Mr. Mohamud’s connections to Islamic extremists, whom investigators say he wrote to and plotted with, as well as about the apparent contradictions in his personal life, as a studious, friendly teenager and a young man seeking to wage jihad within his adopted country.
Many Muslims in Oregon worried that they would face a backlash. And on Sunday, local Muslim leaders emphasized that the case was an isolated incident. Portland Mayor Sam Adams said Sunday that he beefed up protection around mosques “and other facilities that might be vulnerable to knuckle-headed retribution” after hearing of the bomb plot. The move followed a fire Sunday at the Islamic center in Corvallis, a college town about 75 miles southwest of Portland, where suspect Mohamed Osman Mohamud occasionally worshipped, prompting an FBI arson investigation and concern about the potential for more retaliation.

US Muslims seek to reconcile Islamic, Western law on adoption to find homes for orphans

Refugee children from Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere are being resettled here. Muslim couples who can’t conceive want to adopt but don’t want to violate their faith’s teachings. State child welfare agencies that permanently remove Muslim children from troubled homes usually can’t find Muslim families to adopt them because of the restrictions in Islamic law.

The prohibition against adoption would appear contrary to the Quran’s heavy emphasis on helping orphans. The Prophet Muhammad’s father died before his son was born, so the boy’s grandfather and uncle served as his guardians, setting an example for all Muslims to follow.

However, Islamic scholars say the restrictions were actually meant to protect children, by ending abuses in pre-Islamic Arabic tribal society. Advocates for a new interpretation of Islamic law are more hopeful, at least about the prospect for a different approach to the issue in the United States. Mattson argues that the flexibility in Islamic law for accommodating local cultures and customs can lead to a solution.

Muslim woman: Roller rink didn’t allow head scarf

VERNON, Conn. — A Muslim woman in Connecticut says a roller rink’s request that she either remove or cover her head scarf was discriminatory.

Marisol Rodriguez-Colon of Windsor tells WTIC-TV that she and her sister-in-law went to the Ron-A-Roll indoor rink in Vernon on Sunday for her niece’s birthday party. She says inside, a woman who identified herself as a manager told them they would have to either remove their hijabs or wear helmets. She was told the rink has a policy prohibiting headwear.

Rink management issued a statement reiterating the no headwear policy and saying helmets are offered for safety purposes.

Conservative republican Muslim condemns Fox Report on congressional staffers as “Anti-Muslim Bigotry”

Suhail Khan, a conservative Republican who served as a political appointee in the Bush administration and currently serves on the American Conservative Union board, calls the Fox News report asserting that the Congressional Muslim Staff Association poses a national security threat “anti-Muslim bigotry.”

Khan, who currently works as a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Global Engagement, an evangelical Christian religious freedom organization, worked as a Hill staffer in the 1990s, serving on the staff of Tom Campbell, a California Republican. In the mid-1990s, he said, he approached then-Speaker Newt Gingrich about obtaining a room for the small number of Muslim staffers to hold Friday prayers. Gingrinch granted that request, and the tradition continued through the tenures of Speakers Dennis Hastert, also a Republican, and Nancy Pelosi.
Over the years, the number of people attending grew, eventually leading to the creation of the CMSA around 2007, when Khan has already left Hill service and was working in the Bush administration. Like other Congressional staffer organizations, the CMSA does not receive any funding or support from the government; rather the status permits it to use space and provides a structure for leadership. Other groups include Christian and Jewish organizations that host prayer and study sessions. The CMSA, Khan said, engages in two main activities: hosting briefings on a variety of issues; and hosting a Congressional iftar each year that is widely attended, including by elected officials. Friday prayers are held by individual staffers, some of whom are also CMSA members, under the auspices of the House chaplain; they are not an official function of the CMSA.

Regarding the Fox piece, Khan said, “since 9/11 there have been a couple of individuals that have been spending a lot of money to cull through tapes and videos of conferences and TV programs and the Internet to look for information that is critical of Muslims and Muslim-Americans getting involved in public policy. They compile that into a guilt-by-association Powerpoint and then shop it to reporters.” These individuals include, said Khan, Frank Gaffney, who issues baseless warnings to members of Congress about “creeping shari’ah;” Paul Sperry, co-author of the book Muslim Mafia, which claimed that the Council on American Islamic Relations had infiltrated Capitol Hill by placing interns as spies; Kenneth Timmerman, a conservative writer and activist; Pamela Geller, the blogger who spurred much of the anti-Park51 fervor; and Robert Spencer, who runs the website Jihad Watch; and Steve Emerson, whose profits from a cottage industry of peddling fear of Islam were exposed last month by the Tennessean’s religion reporter Bob Smietana.

Rep Honda introduces legislation recognizing Eid al-Adha

Rep Honda, Chairman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, introduced legislation recognizing the cultural and religious significance of Eid al-Adha.

Specifically, Rep Honda’s resolution does the following: (1) recognizes the cultural and religious significance of Eid al-Adha, (2) expresses its appreciation and respect for the contributions of Muslim Americans to our country, and (3) wishes Muslim Americans and Muslims around the world observing Eid al-Adha a prosperous holiday.

Islamic Center seeks 9/11 recovery grants for lower Manhattan

The directors of the planned Islamic community center and mosque near ground zero have applied for grants from an agency tasked with helping Lower Manhattan recover from the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Mr. Gamal has said he plans to raise the $140 million required to build the center by tapping small donors, enlisting paying members and courting corporations and philanthropists. Nothing has been raised yet, but the developers insist that their fund-raising efforts are going according to plan and that they have found interested donors.

In a statement, the developer, Sharif el-Gamal, said that the board of Park51, as the center is known, asked for about $5 million financing from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation about two weeks ago. The money, which would come from a pool of $2 billion in federal financing administered by the corporation, would be used for domestic violence prevention programs, language classes, art exhibitions and other social services at the center.

Ex-Taxi driver charged in $30M Ponzi scheme targeting Muslims

A taxi driver turned prominent businessman in Chicago’s South Asian community is among three people indicted for defrauding hundreds of Muslim investors out of $30 million, in part by promising that investments complied with Islamic law, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

Salman Ibrahim, 37, who vanished in 2008 after allegedly persuading hundreds of Pakistani and Indian immigrants to contribute their savings and mortgage their homes to finance real estate deals, is believed to be abroad, possibly in his native Pakistan, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago said.

Two other men indicted were Mohammad Akbar Zahid, 59, who investigators believe also fled the U.S., and Amjed Mahmood, 47, of Des Plains, a Chicago suburb. Mahmood, who isn’t related to Fazal Mahmood, has not been arrested but is expected to be arraigned soon, U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Randall Samborn said.
One alleged victim, Fazal Mahmood, said he lost more than $200,000, some of which he intended to use to put his two daughters through college.

Order blocking Okla. Islamic law measure extended

OKLAHOMA CITY — A federal judge on Monday said she would rule by the end of the month on a lawsuit challenging an Oklahoma constitutional amendment that would prohibit state courts from considering international or Islamic law when deciding cases.

U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-Le Grange extended a restraining order blocking enforcement of the new law until Nov. 29 during a hearing in the case.