Occupy Wall Street Meets Tahrir Square

At the risk of being obvious, let us list the ways that Occupy Wall Street is not like Tahrir Square: no protesters have been killed, there have been no demands for the president to step down and no crowds swelling above six figures. The protesters are in far less danger, and seem to pose far less danger to the powerful, than in Egypt.

BUT it’s worth pausing for a moment on this point: Here in Lower Manhattan, and around the country, protesters have embraced a movement springing from the Arab world as a model of freedom, democracy and nonviolence.

“Are you ready for a Tahrir moment?” an initial call to action demanded. Now, newcomers to Zuccotti Park are given leaflets explicitly connecting the movements: “We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring occupation tactics to achieve our ends and we encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants.”

Two blocks from ground zero — the same distance, though in a different direction, as the proposed Muslim community center and mosque that raised a ruckus last year — a subtle change in the Arab world’s image, wrought by the events of recent months, is on display.
In a place so sensitized, the big news, perhaps, is that the Tahrir references are taken almost for granted. A movement born in a Muslim country is seen neither as threatening nor as exotic but simply as universal.

“I think Tahrir is an Arabic word, but that doesn’t make it a particularly Arab or Muslim thing,” said Daniel Kurfirst, a musician, after Muslims held Friday prayers in the park for the first time last week.
Progressive Muslim activists, many of them born in New York, have been coming to the park from the beginning. They said they hoped the prayers, organized by the Muslim Leadership Council of New York, would get more Muslims interested in the movement.

But they face ambivalence from their parents’ generation, from immigrants like Mr. Sami, the falafel chef.
It’s good to see Americans recognize that poverty is a problem, he said. But while Tahrir could be summed up in a few words — “Mubarak, leave!” — he found Occupy’s diffuse causes “confusing.” His coworker, who did not want to give his name, said the protesters were “not serious.”

Religion claims its place in Occupy Wall Street

BOSTON— Downtown Dewey Square is crammed with tents and tarps of Occupy Boston protesters, but organizers made sure from the start of this weeks-old encampment that there was room for the holy.

No shoes are allowed in the “Sacred Space” tent here, but you can bring just about any faith or spiritual tradition.

A day’s schedule finds people balancing their chakras, a “compassion meditation” and a discussion of a biblical passage in Luke. Inside, a Buddha statue sits near a picture of Jesus, while a hand-lettered sign in the corner points toward Mecca.

The tent is one way protesters here and in other cities have taken pains to include a spiritual component in their occupations. Still, Occupy Wall Street is not a religious movement, and signs of spiritually aren’t evident at all protest sites.

Religious imagery and events have been common since the protests began. In New York, clergy carried an Old Testament-style golden calf in the shape of the Wall Street bull to decry the false idol of greed. Sieradski organized a Yom Kippur service. About 70 Muslims kneeled to pray toward Mecca at a prayer service Friday.

Imam Al-Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid, who helped organize Friday’s Muslim prayer service in New York, believes religious groups have already amplified the movement’s power. He sees his involvement as a duty, because so many in his congregation are affected by the nation’s economic woes.

“If Moses or Jesus or Mohammed were alive in this day and time they’d be out there guiding and inspiring and teaching these young people,” he said.

AP IMPACT: NYPD keeps secret intelligence files on city Muslims who change their names

NEW YORK — Muslims who change their names to sound more traditionally American, as immigrants have done for generations, or who adopt Arabic names as a sign of their faith are often investigated and catalogued in secret New York Police Department intelligence files, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

The NYPD monitors everyone in the city who changes his or her name, according to internal police documents and interviews. For those whose names sound Arabic or might be from Muslim countries, police run comprehensive background checks that include reviewing travel records, criminal histories, business licenses and immigration documents. All this is recorded in police databases for supervisors, who review the names and select a handful of people for police to visit.

The program was conceived as a tripwire for police in the difficult hunt for homegrown terrorists, where there are no widely agreed upon warning signs. Like other NYPD intelligence programs created in the past decade, this one involved monitoring behavior protected by the First Amendment.

Muslims combat radicalization with online tools

WASHINGTON — A Muslim organization is working to counter radicalization by providing the work of progressive Islam scholars online in simple, youth-friendly language.

Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV), a nonprofit group that has established liberal Muslim communities in the U.S. and Canada, created the “Literary Zikr’ website to provide an alternative to the fundamentalist versions of Islam that pervade the Internet.

“We take the scholarship and present it to the people,” said Yarehk Hernandez, a board member of MPV.
The project, named after the Islamic word for remembrances of God, is geared toward ages 13 to 25, when youth “are formulating their ideas about religious identity and culture,” Hernandez said.

By adapting the work of renowned scholars to a Q-and-A format at an eighth-grade reading level, Hernandez hopes the website will “cut through the clutter” of the Internet.

Currently, the website features pieces on Shariah (Islamic law) and sexuality, with more pieces on governance, pluralism, and women’s rights soon to come.

Nation of Islam leader, Farrakhan, condemns killing of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi

CHICAGO — Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan on Tuesday said the killing of ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was “an assassination” and predicted the U.S. was unprepared for the looming backlash from his overthrow.

During an interview with a Chicago radio station, Farrakhan laid Gadhafi’s death at the feet of the U.S., Great Britain and France. Gadhafi was killed last week, two months after being ousted following a 42-year reign that turned his oil-rich country into an international pariah and his own personal fiefdom.

Farrakhan also noted that the people now claiming leadership of Libya are advocating Islamic Sharia law, something that he contends the U.S. has opposed.

Muslims call for reforms 10 years after Patriot Act

A Muslim civil rights group is accusing the FBI and other federal agencies of “bad policing” and flaunting the Constitution in a 56-page report released to mark the 10th anniversary of the Patriot Act.

The Tuesday (Oct. 25) report by Muslim Advocates, “Losing Liberty: The State of Freedom 10 Years After The Patriot Act” recommends more than 40 legal and policy changes to enforcement of the anti-terrorism law.
The report accuses the FBI of religious profiling, using informants to spy on mosques, and asking Muslims prohibited questions about their religious beliefs and practices.

“FBI agents are instructed to view Muslims with suspicion by, for example, looking out for converts to Islam and those who wear ‘traditional Muslim attire,? attend mosques, and have strong religious beliefs,” the report said.

Md. teen charged in ‘Jihad Jane’ terror plot pleads not guilty at first public court hearing

PHILADELPHIA — A high school honors student pleaded not guilty Monday to charges he helped the American terrorist dubbed “Jihad Jane” raise money and recruits for a Muslim holy war.

Mohammad Hassan Khalid, 18, of Ellicott City, Md., a Baltimore suburb, entered the plea at his first public court appearance since his July 6 arrest.

Federal prosecutors allege that Khalid tried to recruit men to wage a holy war in Europe and South Asia, and women with passports who could travel there. He had met a middle-aged Pennsylvania woman, Colleen LaRose, in online chat rooms when he was about 15, according to last week’s indictment. LaRose was being watched by the FBI after posting YouTube videos in which she dubbed herself “Jihad Jane” and vowed to kill or die for the jihadist cause.

LaRose, 46, has pleaded guilty to plotting to kill a Swedish artist who had offended Muslims, and faces a possible life sentence. Khalid’s lawyer, Jeffrey M. Lindy, believes she helped the FBI build its case against the teenager.

Jury selection in trial of Mass. man charged with supporting terrorist group gets under way

BOSTON — As a Massachusetts man charged with conspiring to support al-Qaida went on trial Monday, potential jurors were being quizzed, likely about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Osama bin Laden and electronic surveillance of private conversations.

Tarek Mehanna, 29, of Sudbury, an affluent suburb west of Boston, is accused of plotting to get training in a terrorist camp and to kill U.S. troops in Iraq. Prosecutors allege that after Mehanna was unable to get into a terror training camp in Yemen, he began seeing himself as part of the “media wing” of al-Qaida, and started translating and distributing text and videos over the Internet in an attempt to inspire others to engage in violent jihad.

Mehanna’s lawyers say he went to Yemen to seek religious study, not terrorist training. They argue that his online activities amount to free speech protected by the First Amendment.

Muslims fired in Seattle over prayer breaks could return-Hertz

SEATTLE, Oct 21 (Reuters) – The Hertz car rental company said on Friday that 26 Muslim drivers at Seattle’s airport sent termination letters in a dispute over prayer breaks could still return to work if they signed an agreement over break rules by the end of the day.

A group of 34 workers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport were suspended three weeks ago for failing to clock in and out for the breaks, a move their union called religious discrimination.