Kansas school surrenders to ignorance, removes Islam display

Back to school means back to the culture wars for Minneha Core Knowledge Elementary School in Wichita, Kansas.

On the very first day of school, someone snapped a photo of a bulletin board display in the hallway featuring the Five Pillars of Islam and then posted it on Facebook.

“This is a school that banned all forms of Christian prayer,” said the caption under the photo. “This can not stand.”

The Islam display went viral migrating from the “Prepare to Take America Back” page on Facebook to likeminded pages and Web sites. Islamophobia is a cottage industry on the Internet.

School officials were immediately inundated with complaints from gullible and misinformed people who apparently believe the canard that public schools indoctrinate kids in Islam – and persecute Christians.

I wish I could report that Minneha administrators faced down the Facebook smears and courageously defended their bulletin board display.

But sadly, the school surrendered to ignorance and fear and removed the Five Pillars of Islam display – ostensibly to “alleviate the distraction.”

As it turns out, a bulletin board in another part of the school features an image of the Last Supper as part of teaching about the religious art of the Renaissance. Other religious images are featured on bulletin boards at other times of the year. These inconvenient facts were left out of the Facebook posting.

‘You’re a Stooge and a Frontman!’:Hannity Guest Explodes at Million Muslim March Organizer

If you thought things got heated during last week’s Hannity discussion on the Million Muslim March, tonight took things to an entirely new level. Chris Phillips, one of the organizers of the march faced off in a contentious back and forth with Dr. Zuhdi Jasser of American Islamic Forum for Democracy, which advocated for the “separation of mosque and state.”

Phillips said the march is not only about supporting “victimized” Muslims in the United States, but also the innocent Muslims who have died all over the world since 9/11. Asked for an example of how America “villain-izes” Muslims, Phillips asked Hannity, “aren’t you villain-izing them with this broadcast? These people are not radical Islamists. these are innocent Americans practicing their constitutional liberties, brother.”

“I haven’t met a Muslim that isn’t offended by the exploitation of 9/11,” Jasser said when it was his turn to speak. He suggested renaming the upcoming event, “How to radicalize Muslims in one march.” Calling the march a 9/11 “truther movement,” he accused Phillips of promoting the same ideology that produced the Boston Marathon bombing and the Fort Hood attack.

Hannity proceeded to bring up a picture of him dressed as a clown that Phillips posted online. “How would you feel if someone did that to the Prophet Mohammad?”

“I don’t worship Islam and I would be offended if friends of mine were offended,” Phillips said, shocking the other two men. “I’m not a Muslim.”

“So you’re a stooge,” Jasser responded. “You’re a stooge and front man for an organization that is destroying the mission to fight radical Islam around the globe.”

Al-Jazeera America faces steep climb among U.S. viewers

RNS) Al-Jazeera and America, two name brands often at odds since 9/11, were wed as one on Tuesday (Aug. 20) when the Qatar-based media network began broadcasting its U.S. news channel Al-Jazeera America from New York.

 

This is not the first time Al-Jazeera has tried to find a home on American TV. Al-Jazeera English debuted with an international focus in 2006 but was never picked up in major media markets outside the Northeast.

 

From CNN to MSNBC to Fox, the leading cable and satellite news channels all struggled to gain and hold viewers, credibility and profit for years after their launch. But for Al-Jazeera America, deep-seated prejudices among some U.S. audiences are likely to make this uphill slog even steeper.

 

With some 800 journalists and staff and bureaus in 12 U.S. cities, Al-Jazeera America bills itself as a network committed to “rebalancing global media by respecting the diversity and humanity of the world” and “giving a voice to the voiceless.”

Although once ranked among Apple, Google, Ikea and Starbucks as one of the world’s most influential brands, many Americans still view Al-Jazeera with suspicion — in part because of  Al-Jazeera’s decision to air messages it received from Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks.

The take-away for many viewers was that Al-Jazeera was nothing more than a mouthpiece for terrorists.

Some influential commentators continue to label Al-Jazeera anti-American or to imply the network is somehow a front for terrorism. For many Americans, perceptions of the network are tied up with negative feelings toward the Middle East, Arabs and Islam.

“I’m afraid the terms Middle East, Arab and Muslim are all often lumped together under Muslim,” said Roger Owen, professor of Middle East history at Harvard University.

John Esposito, director of Georgetown University’s Center for Muslim-Christian Understandingand the author of several books on contemporary Islam, said Al-Jazeera America will have to deal with a segment of the population that is biased against Islam.

The Tampa-based Florida Family Association, which opposes what it perceives to be the “Islamization” of America, recently launched a campaign demanding major companies stop advertising on the channel.

Florida imam sentenced to 25 years in prison for financially supporting Pakistani Taliban

MIAMI — An elderly Muslim cleric was sentenced Friday to 25 years in prison following his convictions on terrorism support charges for sending tens of thousands of dollars overseas to finance the Pakistani Taliban, which has launched numerous violent attacks against both Pakistan’s government and U.S. targets.

Hafiz Khan, 78, had faced up to 60 years behind bars on four terrorism support-related charges. But U.S. District Judge Robert Scola opted for less than the maximum term, although it is 10 years more than the sentence recommended by federal prosecutors.

The case against Khan, who was imam at a Miami mosque prior to his 2011 arrest, was built on hundreds of FBI recordings of both telephone calls and Khan’s face-to-face conversations with an undercover informant. In the calls, Khan discusses details of numerous wire transfers to Pakistan over a three-year period that totaled about $50,000.

“I did not send one dollar to the terrorists or the fighting Taliban,” Khan said. “I am absolutely against the terrorists and the violence.”

Two of Khan’s sons, Izhar and Irfan, were initially charged along with their father but the charges against them were dismissed. Three others in the indictment, including Khan’s daughter, remain free in Pakistan, which will not allow them to be extradited to the U.S.

Coptic unity in Washington D.C. area starts to gel since Morsi ouster

For years, Steve Messeh watched his small Egyptian American Coptic Christian community remain splintered in a jumble of weak advocacy groups. But now, since the violent ouster of President Mohamed Morsi, the young Virginia financial analyst is seeing something new: an effort toward real influence.

Messeh belongs to Coptic Solidarity, which on Thursday pulled together perhaps the largest local Egyptian American effort in memory. About 500 people gathered at the White House and outside several media organizations (including at The Washington Post’s building in Northwest) to voice their support for the military’s removal of Morsi in June. Like-minded Copts who Messeh knows are lobbying Capitol Hill policymakers on the topic this month, and a contingent from political parties was in town this week in a drive to mold the Egyptian Americans who supported the coup into a more unified, effective voice.

The same burst of organizing is happening among Egyptian Americans who oppose the military’s removal of Morsi, who was democratically elected. New groups have popped up since Morsi’s overthrow, including Egyptian Americans for Democracy and Human Rights, which is focused on the hundreds of civilians killed by the military in recent weeks.

But if the sudden activism this summer among Egyptian Americans, who for decades during the rule of Hosni Mubarak tended to be largely quiet, has solidified and motivated the two camps, it has also embittered them, activists and experts say. People’s positions have become hardened, and Egypt’s politics have become too fraught to discuss among friends and even family.

 

“There is an extremely deep polarization going on among Egyptian Americans,” commented Dalia Mogahed, a Washington-based native of Egypt who is the co-author of “Who Speaks for Islam?” and is a consultant to Muslim groups.

 

Ahmed Ghanim sees the same energy, but from the other side. The Michigan-based activist, who has 35,000 Facebook followers for his Egypt updates, is working with Egyptian Americans who oppose the coup. He’s now working with groups starting in Michigan and Texas.

“Even if we didn’t agree with Morsi, it’s a black comedy when you see an elected president in prison and Mubarak going free,” he said.

The new activism is tempered by the polarization, he said.

The revolution created a lot of Egyptian American interest in Egypt.

“Now everyone is accusing one another of being for or against democracy, or for or against revolution.”

Somali-American man convicted in 2010 Portland, Ore., Christmas bomb plot apologizes

PORTLAND, Ore. — A young Somali-American man convicted of plotting to bomb a 2010 Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Portland’s town square has written an apology letter in advance of his sentencing and says he renounces his former beliefs.

In the letter filed Friday by his lawyers in federal court, Mohamed Mohamud offers to speak to young Muslims “to help keep them away from the path of extremism” and tells U.S. District Judge Garr King he turned to books to help himself “walk a better path.” His reading list ranges from “The Grapes of Wrath” to President Barack Obama’s “The Audacity of Hope” to “A Zombie Apocalypse.”

Mohamud was arrested Nov. 26, 2010, after pressing a button on a cellphone that he believed would detonate a 1,800-pound diesel-and-fertilizer bomb near thousands of people at the annual holiday gathering.

The bomb was a fake supplied by undercover FBI agents posing as al-Qaida recruiters.

Fort Hood Gunman Told His Superiors of Concerns

KILLEEN, Tex. — Days before he opened fire inside a medical processing building at Fort Hood here in 2009, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan sent two e-mails to his Army superiors expressing concern about the actions of some of the soldiers he was evaluating as a military psychiatrist.

In the e-mails, one sent 13 days before the attack and the second three days prior, Major Hasan asked his supervisors and Army legal advisers how to handle three cases that disturbed him. In one case, a soldier reported to him that American troops had poured 50 gallons of fuel into the Iraqi water supply as revenge; the second case involved another soldier who told him about a mercy killing of a severely injured insurgent by medics; and in the third, a soldier spoke of killing an Iraqi woman because he was following orders to shoot anything that approached a specific site.

 

The Army never fully investigated his concerns. On Nov. 5, 2009, Major Hasan walked into a medical deployment center to kill as many soldiers as he could as part of a jihad to protect Muslims and Taliban leaders from troops heading to Afghanistan, he has said.

In 2007, when Major Hasan was a resident in the psychiatric program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, the academic presentation he made that was required for graduation — known as his grand rounds presentation — stated that a risk of having American Muslims in the military was the possibility that they would murder their fellow troops.

 

He had also asked a supervisor at Walter Reed whether he qualified for conscientious objector status, told classmates during a fellowship that his religion took precedence over the Constitution, and in an academic paper defended Osama bin Laden.

 

Major Hasan’s radical beliefs and his correspondence with his Army superiors have played a limited role in his military trial, now in its third week at Fort Hood.

 

 

Many Fort Hood victims believe shooter wants death to be martyrdom, but still back punishment

Maj. Nidal Hasan and many of his victims in the Fort Hood shooting seem to want the same thing — his death. But while survivors and relatives of the dead view lethal injection as justice, the Army psychiatrist appears to see it as something else — martyrdom.

As the sentencing phase begins Monday following Hasan’s conviction for killing 13 people in the 2009 attack, the conflict has not gone unnoticed.

Autumn Manning, whose husband, Shawn Manning, survived being shot six times, views the death penalty as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, Hasan would get what he deserves. On the other, it also gives him exactly what he wants.

In the end, she said, it makes little difference because the military has not executed anyone since the 1960s.

The attorneys protested, telling the judge he had a death wish and was paving the way for his own execution. The judge rejected their request to take over the case or to leave Hasan on his own.

Hasan, a U.S.-born Muslim of Palestinian descent, has indicated that martyrdom is a goal.

Martyrdom manifests itself in the Islamic holy book, the Quran, in two ways, said Emran El-Badawi, director of the Arab studies program at the University of Houston.

The shahid — or martyr — is adopted in one sense from Christianity and other early religions as someone who dies for the faith and goes to paradise alongside prophets and saints. Martyrs also appear in the Quran as fallen soldiers or those who died in battle, he said.

This modern concept of a martyr “is incoherent. It is unstandardized, and it is messy,” El-Badawi said, but it has been exploited by extremist groups like al-Qaida to encourage suicide attacks, even though some of Islam’s most prominent religious leaders have condemned this type of warfare.

Hasan apparently communicated with some al-Qaida leaders prior to the attack on the Army post and has repeatedly stated that the rampage was designed to prevent U.S. soldiers from going to fight in unjust wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hasan was to be deployed with some of the troops he killed.

Military Jury Convicts Army Psychiatrist, Maj. Nidal Malik, on All 45 Counts in Fort Hood Rampage

KILLEEN, Tex. — A military jury on Friday found Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan guilty of carrying out the largest mass murder at a military installation in American history.

The verdict, delivered by 13 senior Army officers, came 17 days after Major Hasan’s court-martial trial began on Aug. 6, and nearly four years after the day in November 2009 that he killed or wounded dozens of unarmed soldiers at a medical deployment center at Fort Hood here.

Hasan, a Virginia-born Muslim, said the attack was a jihad against U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of his few displays of emotion during the trial came when he bristled after Osborn suggested the shooting rampage could have been avoided were it not for a spontaneous flash of anger.

For months and even years before the attack, his views of Islam had turned extreme. In December 2008, 10 months before the shooting, he sent the first of 16 messages and e-mails to Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical American-born cleric who encouraged several terrorist plots. He asked Mr. Awlaki whether Muslim American troops who killed other American soldiers in the name of Islam would be considered “fighting jihad and if they did die would you consider them shaheeds,” an Arabic term for martyrs.

Mr. Awlaki never replied to that message. But in 2010, in an interview with the mental health panel that evaluated him, Major Hasan appeared to answer his own question. He told the panel if he died by lethal injection, “I would still be a martyr.”

 

The jury of nine colonels, three lieutenant colonels and one major deliberated for about six hours over two days before finding him guilty of 45 counts of premeditated murder and attempted premeditated murder, one count for each of the 13 people he killed and the 32 he wounded or shot at.

John Galligan, Hasan’s former lead attorney, said the jury did not hear all the facts because the judge refused to allow evidence that helped explain Hasan’s actions.

“Right or wrong, strong or weak, the facts are the facts,” he said. “The jury we heard from only got half the facts.”

 

He and prosecutors said his mission was to kill as many soldiers as he could as part of a jihad to protect “my Muslim brothers” from American soldiers deploying to Afghanistan. A year after the shooting, he told a military mental health panel that he wished he had died in the attack so he could have become a martyr. He expressed no remorse for his actions, only regret that he was paralyzed by police officers who shot him in ending the attack.

The start of the court-martial trial was delayed several times, largely because of Major Hasan’s efforts to keep the beard he had grown for religious reasons, in violation of Army rules. In contrast, Hasan Akbar, the Army sergeant who was sentenced to death in a grenade attack on his own camp in Kuwait in 2003, was convicted just two years after his attack. In Major Hasan’s case, three years and nine months have elapsed since the shooting.

His has also become one of the most expensive cases in military history, costing the government more than $5 million, including $8,000 a month to rent a trailer near the courthouse where Major Hasan, who acted as his own lawyer, could work on his case with access to a computer, printer and law books.

New Group to support Muslim LBGT people in Italy: a meeting with Moi

August 29, 2013

 

Muslim and gay? Impossible! Transsexual and Muslim? Inconceivable!
These assertions gave life to Moi (Homosexual Muslims in Italy). We talk to Pier Cesare Notaro, the project coordinator.

 

Beyond prejudice, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Muslims are a reality and too often reduced to keeping silent. They, like all human beings, have the right to live and to freely express their sexual identity and religion.

From this notion was born, in 2011, Moi -Muslim Homosexuals in Italy – the first Italian project of media- activism, culture, research and information that aims to be an activist group  for LGBTQ people in religion, culture and family issues. The group is open to Muslim immigrants and those born in Italy but the project aims to be for anyone who believes in respect for all religions and sexual orientation. Moi adheres to Calem – Confederation of European and Muslim associations for LGBTI – and collaborates with MPV -Muslims for progressive values ​​- and – INIMuslim International Network for inclusive Muslims. To learn more we asked some questions to Pier Cesare Notaro, the project coordinator.

How and why did Moi develop?
Our project began with a simple observation: in Italy there was no tool to meet and exchange ideas for the LGBTQ people who are Muslim or from Muslim countries. The invisibility of homosexuals, transgender and queer Muslims was so deep that these people, in the common opinion, did not exist. As just one example, one of the leading gay websites wrote that Islam and homosexuality are thought of as “two concepts that are extreme opposites in nature.” Yet in our group of friends from various corners of the world, there were more gay Muslims. And so it felt natural to us that what was missing was a place where we could say, “We exist…”

How was your movement received in the Muslim community?
If we talk about the more or less institutional level, our project was simply ignored. Aside from an imam who wrote us a letter, we never received a response to our attempts to open a dialogue. The situation is different if we are talking about individuals: on the one hand every now and then we get messages of condemnation, on the other; our site is read and followed by some heterosexual Muslims in our country, especially women.